Sri Lanka Cricket, on Thursday (December 17), announced a 22-member squad for the upcoming Test series against South Africa and England. Wanindu Hasaranga, Minod Bhanuka, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka and Santhush Gunathilaka are the five uncapped players in the team. Angelo Mathews is part of the squad but he will not tour South Africa as he is recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained during the recently-concluded Lanka Premier League.
The 22-member squad picked for the upcoming two series is the same that participated in a 10-day training camp in Pallekele before the Lanka Premier League. Apart from Mathews’ injury-forced absence, there are a few other concerns for Sri Lanka in terms of fitness. Opening batsman Oshada Fernando is still recovering from an ankle injury and is set to miss the first Test versus South Africa, with Kusal Perera likely to open.
“We will need Oshada for the England series too so it is better to keep him with us so that he can bat and get some practice. The only thing is, he will not be able to do other things on the field till the end of the month. We are coming straight to the England series at home from the South African bubble so it is better for Oshada to be in the side so that the physios can attend to him,” Ashantha de Mel, the head of the national selection committee, was quoted as saying by Daily FT.
“Oshada may not play in the first Test match but he will be fit for the second one. The first Test we most likely might open with Kusal Perera. He scored a match winning 153 on the last tour although he didn’t open, but in the current situation we feel he might do well as an opener because he can play the new ball. Otherwise, we will have to see whom we can open with,” the Sri Lanka manager added.
Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva too have some injury concerns but according to de Mel, they are expected to be fit by the time the series gets underway.
The players and staff will leave for South Africa on December 18. They have a three-day practice match scheduled in Benoni from December 20 before the opening Test which begins on Boxing Day in Centurion.
The tour of South Africa is Sri Lanka’s first Test assignment in 11 months. They last played against Zimbabwe in January 2020 while their scheduled home series against England in March 2020 got postponed due to the COVID outbreak. The same series will now take place from January 14, 2021, a week after Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa is scheduled to end.
The last time Sri Lanka toured South Africa, they secured a historic 2-0 series win in February 2019, becoming the first Asian team to win a Test series in South Africa.
Sri Lanka Test squad for series against South Africa and England: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Kusal Janith Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Oshada Fernando, Dhananjaya De Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Embuldeniya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera, Dasun Shanaka, Santhush Gunathilake, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka.