Sri Lanka v India: First Test Preview

Sri Lanka and India will square off in the first Test of their three match series at Galle International Stadium. 

The first of three Tests will see Sri Lanka and India's first full series, replete with five ODIs and a one-off T20I, get underway this week. The tourists have rung the changes across their coaching staff, while the hosts have done the same, as well as reorganising their captaincy personnel.

Sri Lanka vs India | Wednesday 26 July - Sunday 30 July | Galle International Stadium | 05:30

To Win Match
Sri Lanka 6/1 | Draw 16/10 | India 8/10 

Sri Lanka
The home side will head into this challenging series, against the number one-ranked team in the longest form of the international game, on the back of a very uncomfortable win over minnows Zimbabwe in mid-July's one-off Test. Mere days prior, they had suffered an ODI series defeat to the spirited African unit.

Veteran all-rounder Angelo Mathews has since resigned as captain, successor Dinesh Chandimal has been sidelined by illness and stalwart spinner Rangana Herath will be the skipper in Galle. Former fast bowler Chaminda Vaas has been reappointed bowling coach, ex-Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman Nic Pothas is settling in as fielding coach - and Sri Lanka are still without an appropriate replacement for former head coach Graham Ford. All, indeed, is not settled enough at the helm.

The Sub-Continent always brings an intriguing battle between spin bowlers - and this week's duel between Herath and India's Ravichandran Ashwin will be particularly interesting. The former recently leapfrogged the latter to second position in the ICC's rankings for Test bowlers - and is two 10-wicket match hauls away from equaling the legendary Shane Warne's record tally of 10.

Sri Lanka and India have met for a Test on four occasions at the Galle International Stadium, with the hosts triumphant three times. Besides the successful exploits of the now retired Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's batsmen did not lead the charge in any of the wins. In all three matches, the spinners, not necessarily operating in the fourth innings, were key.

Personnel-wise, the Sri Lankans have recalled batting all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva and seamer Nuwan Pradeep, while uncapped left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara has been included at the ripe, old age of 30. Watching him bowl in tandem with Herath would certainly increase the entertainment and intrigue stakes.

The Indians have not played Test match cricket since March, when they journeyed through a taxing - on and off the field - home series against Australia. While they remain atop the Test rankings, four months of white-ball cricket has done little to boost their preparation in red-ball competition. Plenty of long-format rust, therefore, requires removal.

Galle, Colombo and surrounds has never brought straightforward conditions for opening batsmen and, with the experienced Murali Vijay absent due to injury and the recalled KL Rahul battling sickness, concern over India's combination at the top of the order is evident. Plenty of responsibility, then, sits on the shoulders of the in-form Shikhar Dhawan.

Former head coach Anil Kumble's hasty exit, erstwhile all-rounder Ravi Shastri's prompt appointment as successor - and a peculiar u-turn on the hiring of the veteran Zaheer Khan and Rahul Dravid to the coaching staff - haven't instilled confidence in the overall thinking, but skipper Virat Kohli and Shastri's no-nonsense approach will make up for that.

India have met Sri Lanka 38 times in Test cricket. They've won 16 times, with 15 draws. They'll know full well, though, they have only proved victorious in Galle once in four attempts. That win was largely built on the back of double-centurion Virender Sehwag's heroic efforts. Similar, from Kohli or Dhawan, is the demand this time too.

As was the case at the start of their recent limited-overs series in the Caribbean, where India somewhat silenced the hurt of defeat in the preceding Champions Trophy final against Pakistan, the men this time have the chance to lighten the pain the women endured in Sunday's World Cup final defeat to England.

Verdict: Sri Lanka 6/1
A team six positions inferior in the Test rankings, but with home ground advantage and the talismanic Herath to lead the charge on two fronts, will do enough to outgun India for a fourth time at this venue.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for

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