Sri Lanka vs India: Second Test Preview

Our cricket writer takes a closer look at the second Test between Sri Lanka and India. 

Beaten inside four days in last week's series opener in Galle, the Sri Lankans - battling several injuries and health concerns - will face a hefty challenge against a supreme opposition outfit.

A swift, commanding turnaround is required by the hosts, while the Indians' dominance won't likely relent in conditions increasingly familiar for their batsmen and bowlers.

Sri Lanka v India | Thu 3 August - Mon 7 August | Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo | 06:30

To Win Match
Sri Lanka 8/1| Draw 2/1 | India 53/100

Sri Lanka
While captain Dinesh Chandimal will likely return, after being sidelined by pneumonia for the first Test, all-rounder Asela Gunaratne has been ruled out of the rest of the series due to a thumb injury - and veteran spinner Rangana Herath is nursing a damaged finger. Resources, indeed, are stretched.

The inexperienced Danushka Gunathilaka will probably make way for Chandimal and, in the absence of Gunaratne, substantially more responsibility will rest on the shoulders of the talented Dilruwan Perera. Sri Lanka's conversion rate certainly needs improvement, after five half-centuries - and several other good starts - failed to graduate to three figures in Galle.

Former India opener Gautam Gambhir and Sri Lankan all-rounder Farveez Maharoof have strongly suggested the home side add to their seam resources, too. The young Lahiru Kumara and seasoned Nuwan Pradeep were overburdened in the first Test. The inclusion of left-armer Vishwa Fernando or right-armer Suranga Lakmal would remedy the shortfall.

Herath insisted Sri Lanka are "better than this", after the drubbing in Galle. Usually softly spoken, the stand-in skipper's telling remarks spoke volumes of a host XI severely unable to match opposition several places superior in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings, but equally fallible if properly exploited. Sri Lanka, soon, need to find those areas to capitalise.

For all the talk of disunity and derision within the camp, in the wake of former coach Anil Kumble's exit and a peculiar u-turn on other pivotal coaching positions prior to the first Test, captain Virat Kohli and company did really well to leave the these controversies off the field during Galle's dominance. Kohli reckons "the bond within the team is outstanding" - and it's evident to outsiders, too.

Worries about visiting openers' individual and collective inadequacies in Sri Lanka were largely nullified in the opening Test, with the hard-hitting Shikhar Dhawan and patient Abhinav Mukund scoring well. The latter's performance, in the absence of the injured Murali Vijay and sickly Lokesh Rahul was particularly inspiring. However, he'll likely be replaced by the returning Rahul.

Kohli didn't enforce the follow-on in Galle, which belied the faith shown in his bowlers. Seamers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav are in for a large workload, in similarly flat conditions, in Colombo. Unlike Sri Lanka, though, they'll have a workhorse all-rounder in the committed Hardik Pandya to share the burden.

India haven't lost a Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in almost a decade, but will be acutely aware of Sri Lanka's ability to overcome a strong Australian unit at the venue a year ago. Herath was entirely key then - and not much has changed since. The stalwart spinner, if fit to play, needs to be successfully combated.

Verdict: India 53/100
The last 10 Tests at this ground have yielded five draws, but three positive results from its last three fixtures. A fourth - in favour of the visitors - is a high probability this time, too.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for

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