They may not be as good as Rangana Herath, but they’re better than what they showed against Bangladesh. This was what Sri Lanka Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne
had to say about his young spinners, on the eve of the first Test against Australia.
In their most recent Test series, against Bangladesh
, Sri Lanka’s spinners claimed a paltry three wickets between them. This was across the 196 overs they had delivered in two Tests.
Despite this, Karunaratne suggested Sri Lanka are likely to field three frontline spinners in their XI, in addition to having the offspin of batter Dhananjaya de Silva
on hand, for the first Test. Galle’s pitch is expected to turn more than the tracks in Chattogram and Dhaka. And the likes of left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya
, and offspinner Ramesh Mendis
did find success on the surface last year, in the series against England and West Indies respectively.
“Our spinners didn’t bowl that well in Bangladesh, but we looked ahead and looked at which series were coming up and prepared for them,” Karunaratne said. “Piyal Wijetunge
, our spin-bowling coach, has been working hard with the spinners. Even playing them in the nets, I can see an improvement. I think they’ll do the job we’ll need them to do in the match.
Sri Lanka’s success on Australia’s previous trip to the island had been driven by the prowess of Herath, who took 28 wickets at an average of 12.75
in a 3-0 whitewash. Australia had at times been woeful against spin in that series, but Karunaratne expects them to be much improved this time. Australia’s most recent taste of subcontinent conditions had been a three-match tour of Pakistan
, which they won 1-0, albeit on flatter tracks than those expected in Galle.
“Australia have improved a lot. They showed that in the series against Pakistan. In 2016 we had Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera. We had experienced spinners. We’ve now got three pretty new spinners in the team. But we know what this pitch will do and how we need to bowl on it. If we do those basics well, we’ll be able to win. There are things we learned in the last series, and a lot of the same players are playing this one as well. I think some of those plans will work out here.
“What Rangana did in that series is keep bowling in good areas and make trouble for the batters. If our spinners do that, we’ll be able to ask a lot of questions.”
The series won’t be all about spin, however. Reverse-swing frequently plays a role in Galle Tests, and Mitchell Starc had weaponised it to outstanding effect in 2016, when he claimed 11 for 94. With Pat Cummins who is also an excellent reverse-swing operator, Sri Lanka’s batters have a substantial challenge ahead of them, particularly as the Test wears on and the square gets drier.
“With the breeze here, reverse is definitely going to be a factor. Mitchell Starc in the previous series took a lot of wickets. We prepared well in the nets. We know we have to play spin well, but then there’s Starc and Pat Cummins as well.
“Starc has done really well in these conditions and he knows how to use the crease as well. We have a few plans against him. Most of our players have played against him, so they have the confidence and the experience to play him.”