Three Sri Lanka players have been ruled out of the second Test against Australia in Galle, starting on Friday, after they tested positive to COVID-19.
Dhananjaya de Silva, Asitha Fernando and Jeffrey Vandersay, who all played in the first Test, returned positive COVID tests on Wednesday, ruling them out of the series finale.
It brings to five the number of Sri Lankan players who have tested positive to the virus in the past week.
Former skipper Angelo Mathews will be available for the second Test despite testing positive during last week’s first Test, which forced him out of the side partway through the match.
Back-up spinner Praveen Jayawickrama, who didn’t play in the first Test but had been in line for a recall this week, tested positive on Tuesday and is also unavailable for selection.
All other members of the squad tested negative on Wednesday.
Left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan has been called into the squad.
In the three new cases, the hosts have lost their only fast bast bowler from the first Test (Fernando), their No.5 who has a Test ton to his name against Australia and whose handy off-spin got the wicket of Travis Head (Dhananjaya) and their wrist-spinner (Vandersay).
Kasun Rajitha, the right-arm paceman who took 11 wickets in Sri Lanka’s preceding two-Test series against Bangladesh including a five-for in Dhaka, is the logical replacement for Fernando.
Kamindu Mendis, a batting allrounder who has previously made headlines for his ability to bowl finger spin with both arms, shapes as the only like-for-like player to Dhananjaya.
Batter Oshada Fernando, who replaced Mathews during the first Test, is also an option to retain his spot in Dhanajaya’s absence.
Sri Lanka have more options on the spin front, even before the addition of Sandakan, who made his debut against Australia in 2016 but has not played Test cricket since 2018.
Uncapped duo Dunith Wellalage and Prabath Jayasuriya are the two left-arm spin options, while crafty mystery tweaker Maheesh Theekshana could also complement incumbent off-spinner Ramesh Mendis after impressing in the limited-overs series.
“You can pick him,” allrounder Cameron Green said of Theekshana, whose carrom ball is a rare weapon in international cricket. “It’s just how much he was spinning both ways that really got us (in the white-ball games).”
“It’s a different game, Test cricket to one-day cricket. You pick and choose the balls you want to attack.
“If you have someone who spins it both ways there might be potential to score runs.”
Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Test squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Ramesh Mendis, Chamika Karunaratne, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka, Maheesh Theekshana, Lakshitha Manasinghe, Dunith Wellalage, Prabath Jayasuriya, Lakshan Sandakan
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner. Standby players: Matthew Kuhnemann, Todd Murphy
June 29 – July 3: Australia won by 10 wickets
July 8-12: Second Test, Galle, 2.30pm AEST