Fast bowling woes and a dry surface had kept Sri Lanka interested in playing a second spinner for the second Test against Australia here in Canberra but doubts about the control that left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan can provide could force the tourists to give up the idea. Australia, meanwhile, will stick to the same side that won the first Test at the Gabba by an innings and 40 runs, confirmed captain Tim Paine ahead of Friday's game.
(The second Australia vs Sri Lanka Test will start from 1 February. The match starts at 5.00 AM IST)
It will be a big day for the Australian capital Canberra as Manuka Oval will host its inaugural Test match from 1 February. In the 142 years of Australian Test cricket, Canberra will become only the 11th venue to host Test cricket in this country.
Tickets for the first three days of the game are sold out as the locals are showing a keen interest for the game while the government has pumped millions of dollars to improve facilities with the hope that Canberra will become a major cricketing center in the country. A state of the art media center and new stands are among the new additions at a ground that earlier only hosted limited over games and tour matches.
The conditions will be to the liking of the Sri Lankans as Canberra is the flattest wicket in Australia. The Gabba exposed the deficiencies of Sri Lankan batsmen with extra bounce proving to be their undoing.
"It's similar to a Sri Lankan pitch and definitely after the second day's play there will be turn," Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal said in his press-conference ahead of the match.
The tourists have faced all sorts of problems after three fast bowlers were forced to return home with injuries. Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha Chameera, who played the first Test will not be available having gone home with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively.
Nuwan Pradeep also suffered a hamstring strain during the warm-up game. All three have been ruled out up to six weeks, which means they will miss Sri Lanka's tour of South Africa as well.
Suranga Lakmal, who took a five-wicket haul in Brisbane didn't train on Thursday as he was nursing a back strain but he is expected to be fit for the game. Kasun Rajitha and Vishwa Fernando are expected to team up with Lakmal for the second Test.
Chandimal insisted that he will continue to bat at number three. The Sri Lankan captain had given up his number five spot where he was extremely successful and had moved up to number three as the team struggled to fit in other players in that role. He has struggled in his new position having been forced to face the new ball as openers have failed to put up a decent stand.
"Number three in Test cricket is a difficult position and we tried a couple of players. So I said I will take up that responsibility. It's a different challenge to number five. I have worked hard and hope to put up a better show," Chandimal said.
Sri Lankans have two reserve batsmen in Kusal Janitha Perera and Sadeera Samarawickrama and can bring one of the players for Dhananaya de Silva, who has failed to make an impact at number six.
On a surface like that of Canberra, Sri Lanka would have preferred to play second spinner but Sandakan didn't look convincing in the warm-up game and he will yet again be reduced to do substitutes' duties. Akila Dananjaya who had made tremendous progress is not on tour after being forced to remodel his action having been reported for a suspect action.
Australian will go into the match with an unchanged side, confirmed skipper Tim Paine: "We're unchanged which is nice. Coming off a good win we are happy with our combination. This pitch is probably slightly different we just think that we'll be able to get more overs out of Marnus (Labuschagne) on a pitch like this."
The Aussies have problems to sort out having conceded a first-ever home series defeat to India earlier this summer. This whole summer, not a single Australian batsman has posted a hundred and there's an opportunity for them to put that record straight in the second Test.
"I think this wicket will be another great opportunity for all our batting group to get that hundred that we haven't been able to score this summer. I think in every team scoring hundreds becomes more mental than it is technical," Paine said.
With Mitchell Starc struggling all summer there have been suggestions that Pat Cummins, who picked up career-best figures in Brisbane should take up the new ball, but Paine shot down the idea.
"No I don't think so. I think Jhye bowled beautifully with the new ball and we've used Starcy for a long time with the new ball and we think he is still our best new ball bowler when he gets it right, so we'll always give him the first few. Hopefully he can swing a few and if he does we know he is more than likely to get an early breakthrough. What we have done is brought Pat on a lot earlier than what we have done in the past."
Australia Squad: Tim Paine(Captain), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Jhye Richardson, Kurtis Patterson, Marcus Stoinis
Sri Lanka Squad: Dinesh Chandimal(Captain), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Dimuth Karunaratne, Vishwa Fernando, Chamika Karunaratne