Sri Lanka are looking to usher in Dinesh Chandimal’s era as skipper by bouncing back from a humiliating ODI series defeat to Zimbabwe with victory in the Test starting Friday.
Chandimal will lead the islanders in a Test for the first time after Angelo Mathews resigned Wednesday following Sri Lanka’s shock 3-2 series loss to the cricketing minnows.
The 27-year-old Chandimal has long been earmarked for the captaincy and Sri Lanka’s cricket board hope his elevation will spark an upturn in fortunes for the demoralised side.
“I am passionate about leading the side and I want to take this team forward and improve our rankings,” Chandimal told reporters on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s one-off Test at Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium.
“We had a lot of ups and downs in the past year. But we have good young and older players,” added the right-handed batsman, a former captain of Sri Lanka’s T20 and ODI teams.
Sri Lanka, ranked seventh in Test cricket, hope victory can be the start of rebuilding their reputation. Their loss to Zimbabwe followed a fitness and coaching crisis and an early departure from the Champions Trophy.
Left hander Danushka Gunathilaka, who did well in the ODI series, is expected to make his Test debut by opening the batting with the experienced Dimuth Karunaratne.
Fast bowler Vishwa Fernando is also in the squad while Rangana Herath, who has picked up 373 Test wickets, and Dilruwan Perera will lead their spin attack after not featuring in the ODIs.
A fired-up Zimbabwe will be hoping to maintain their momentum with Hamilton Masakadza, who was named Player of the Series in the ODI tournament, likely to be the main source of their runs.
But beating Sri Lanka in a Test match poses a far greater challenge than the ODI series for the inexperienced Zimbabweans.
Masakadza, with 32 Test caps, is their only player to feature in more than 20 Test matches. And they will be aware that at the same ground 20 years ago Sri Lanka posted a world Test record score of 952 for 6 against India.
“This tour has been very special for us. Now we must do well in the Test match to finish off the tour on a high note,” said Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer who will be able to call upon promising leg-spinner Natsai M’shangwe.
Sri Lanka (from): Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Dimuth Karunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara.
Zimbabwe (from): Graeme Cremer (captain), Ryan Burl, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Craig Ervine, Hamilton Masakadza, Peter Moor, Chris Mpofu, Carl Mumba, Tarisai Musakanda, Natsai M’shangwe, Sikandar Raza, Donald Tiripano, Malcolm Waller, Nathan Waller, Sean Williams.
Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG) and Nigel Llong (ENG)
Third Umpire: Chettithody Shamshuddin (IND)
Match Referee: Chris Broad (ENG)