SRI LANKA have suffered enough injuries playing cricket this summer, and now another player has broken down, this time playing football, as their nightmare tour of Australia continued on Wednesday.
Promising fast bowler Shaminda Eranga is in doubt for the third Test after becoming the latest player to join the casualty ward when he injured his right ankle in an accident while warming up at training. If Eranga does not prove his fitness, the Sri Lankans could be forced to make as many as four injury-enforced changes for the final Test of the series. Wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene has been ruled out after failing to overcome a hairline fracture of the thumb he suffered after being struck by Mitchell Johnson on Boxing Day.
Chanaka Welegedara has already flown home after having his tour ended by a hamstring injury, while Kumar Sangakkara is in Melbourne recovering from finger surgery.
It's not the first time this summer a cricketer has broken down playing football. South Africa's J.P. Duminy snapped his Achilles tendon while warming down after play during the Gabba Test. Staring at a whitewash, the Sri Lankans have been forced to dig deep into their reserves just to field a fit XI for the final Test of the Australian summer.
Dinesh Chandimal will take the gloves in place of Jayawardene, while batsman Tharanga Paranavitana and paceman Nuwan Pradeep are favourites to come in for Sangakkara and Welegedara. Middle-order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and fast bowler Suranga Lakmal, who were not part of the original touring party, are also in contention for a recall.
Sri Lanka have sorted out their game plan for days four and five but must first make sure the Test gets that far. The visitors, winless in 12 Tests in Australia, believe their best chance of posting a historic victory centres on star spinner Rangana Herath on a wearing wicket.
But that would also expose Sri Lanka's beleaguered batting line-up to a four-pronged Australian attack on a SCG pitch sporting more green than usual. ''The best way that we can win a Test match is to create a situation for Rangana on a slow turner,'' captain Mahela Jayawardene said. ''We have to make sure that until the fourth or fifth day that we execute a good game plan and we stay in the game. Those are things we will discuss after having a look at the wicket and after we finalise the team. There was a loss of concentration and a few technical glitches as well [in Melbourne]. We did emphasise on certain things - what the Aussie bowler would bring against certain batsmen and individual plans. The guys prepared for that.
''We can't control what the Aussies are going to bowl, what we can control is how we're going to bat against that and give ourselves a chance.''
With a top six that contains champion pair Sangakkara and Jayawardene and accomplished senior players Tillakratne Dilshan and Thilan Samaraweera, the Sri Lankans had considered their batting to be their strength. ''That's where our experience lies and that's where we've controlled a lot of Test matches,'' Jayawardene said.
''We need to get that control back, whether it's with the mental side of it or the technical side, it's something that we need to address. We have spoken about it, but there is so much we can talk about. We just need to go out there and enjoy ourselves tomorrow and back ourselves that we can perform to our ability.''
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