Sri Lanka hope to overcome a weakened bowling attack and secure a series-clinching win in the second Test against India from Monday, their first match in the post-Muttiah Muralitharan era.
The world bowling record holder bid farewell to Test cricket last week by leading the hosts to an emphatic win in the first match in Galle, claiming eight scalps to end his career with 800 wickets. Sri Lanka suffered a further blow ahead of the second Test at the Sinhalese sports club (SSC) when sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who grabbed 5-50 in the second innings at Galle, was ruled out with a knee injury.
Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara was confident the absence of Muralitharan and Malinga, who claimed 15 of the 20 Indian wickets between them, will not hamper his team’s progress in the series.
“We have bowlers who are looking for a chance to make a mark for themselves,” said Sangakkara. “This is their opportunity to prove themselves.”
Unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis will replace Muralitharan, while fast bowler Dilhara Fernando is expected to come in for Malinga. Mendis, 25, is no stranger to the Indians, having grabbed 26 wickets in three Tests against them on his debut in 2008 to fashion Sri Lanka’s 2-1 series win at home.
Mendis, who has 44 wickets so far in 10 Tests, reminded the Indians of his prowess when he took 6-67 in a three-day practice match at the start of the current tour.
The absence of Muralitharan and Malinga will bring relief to the Indians, who folded up for 276 and 338 in good batting conditions at Galle to lose by 10 wickets and put their number one ranking at stake.
India cannot afford another slip-up because a 2-0 or 3-0 series scoreline in Sri Lanka’s favour will remove Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men from the perch and lift the hosts to the top spot.