Sri Lankan dangerman finds form
Kumar Sangakkara scored a valuable 55 at Manuka Oval. Photo: Brendon Thorne
Sri Lanka's batting linchpin Kumar Sangakkarra has emerged from his mini slump and is poised to be a thorn in Australia's side, according to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene.
While its bowlers struggled to make an impact on a placid Manuka Oval pitch, Sri Lanka's batsmen got the workout they required in the three-day match with the Chairman's XI in Canberra on Saturday.
The match ended in a draw when play was called off by mutual agreement with two sessions left, with Sri Lanka turning its attention to next Friday's first Test against Australia in Hobart.
Prasanna Jayawardene made 71. Photo: Brendon Thorne
Sri Lanka made 6-396 in reply to the Chairman's XI's first innings of 6-439 (declared).
After a lean trot against New Zealand, where he scored just 21 runs in three innings, Sangakkarra's composed 55 off 109 balls was just the tonic the tourists needed as they attempt to break through for their maiden Test victory on Australian soil after 25 years of trying.
Despite his recent woes, the 36-year-old is still the Sri Lankan batsman the Australians fear the most, having racked up almost 10,000 Test runs at the sensational average of 55.89.
Fellow veteran Tillakaratne Dilshan looked in impressive touch with an unbeaten 101, while captain Mahela Jayawardene spent valuable time in the middle before falling for 36.
Prasanna Jayawardene, who made 71, expected Sangakkara to take plenty of confidence out of his half-century and tipped him to rise to the challenge of helping Sri Lanka to a historic victory.
''He's a brilliant player and he can always come good at the top level,'' Jayawardene said.
''I think he batted really well in that game and I think he's in form now.
''All the senior players, when the big competition comes they will perform. We need their very best.''
Jayawardene confirmed that left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara - who were both rested from the match with the Chairman's XI - were walk-up starts for the opening Test, leaving two spots up for grabs.
Dhammika Prasad, Sri Lanka's only multiple wicket-taker, and Shaminda Eranga, who bowled accurately to finish with the economical figures of 1-22 from 13 overs before leaving the field with a hand injury, are the leading candidates.
There's also the possibility of Suraj Randiv joining Herath in a two-pronged spin attack with Sri Lanka also using the medium pace of all-rounder Angelo Mathews.
Herath (174 wickets at 29.67) is the only bowler in Sri Lanka's squad to have a Test average under 30, while all are first-timers in Australia, making the selection choice all the more tricky.
''It will depend on the wicket, we'll have to go down there and see,'' Prasanna Jayawardene said.
''Management and captain [Mahela Jayawardene] will do that.
''We'll go with a good side and a good attitude.''
Tasmanian all-rounder Luke Butterworth, who claimed the wicket of young gun Dinesh Chandimal for a classy 71 thanks to an acrobatic Glenn Maxwell catch, warned the Sri Lankans to expect a vastly different surface on his home ground.
''It might be a bit of a shock,'' Butterworth said. ''Bellerive doesn't turn and it doesn't break up, so we need some grass on it to produce results.
''It was pretty flat when I left, I think [curator Marcus Pamplin] is going to put a fair bit of work into it. There'll be a fair bit in it on day one, but it's not going to be a typical [Sheffield] Shield wicket where 20 wickets fall in two days.
''You can tell they're a high-class batting team … it was tough to knock them over.''