A Spin Test Amidst The High Tide

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - A spin test amidst the high tide. Pat Cummins hopes Australia can right the wrongs of 2016.

A Spin Test Amidst The High TidePat Cummins hopes Australia can right the wrongs of 2016.

The rumbling of the empty gas cylinders being dragged along the footpath right around the ground is what welcomes you at the Galle International Stadium on the eve of the first Test. The hundreds clutching on to their respective cylinders, each weighing around 20 kg, are still around when you leave the ground some eight hours later. They’ve spent the day, braving the extreme sun and the sudden showers, moving their possessions a few inches every few minutes with a hope of procuring some cooking gas at the end of their ordeal.

Within the confines of the scenic venue, it seemed like business as usual. The Sri Lankan team were nearly in full force with most of their key batters in attendance for a final net session before the start of the series. Their spinners meanwhile were separated into groups, one bowling to the batters and the other with the bowling coach on the side wickets of the square. There was turn on offer wherever they bowled. The group in the middle were focused on preparing to do what Rangana Herath did so tremendously well for many years, and especially against the Aussies when they were last here in 2016. They were looking to land the ball over and over again on the same spots, on a good length right in front of the right-handers, with the bowling coach admonishing them every time they missed the mark.

The Aussies were not at full strength. Pat Cummins didn’t hang around for too long, as is the norm with fast bowlers, after posing with the trophy and speaking to the press. Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, not surprisingly, were the busiest members of the team, spending a majority of the session working out the final details of their batting campaign against spin in Galle.

The main focus though was on Travis Head’s fitness as he was made to run up and down the pitch a few times with the trainer and physio recording his speeds. He finished his final run with arms raised aloft, perhaps a sign that he’d passed the test and would keep his place in the side ahead of the returning Glenn Maxwell. Mitchell Swepson, meanwhile, stuck to working on his control in the nets, as he has been throughout this tour.

As has been the case with this remarkable tour already, the rather ‘normal’ atmosphere at the cricket just put the rather abnormal predicament that Sri Lanka finds itself in as a country into greater perspective. Cummins as always was as eloquent as ever in summing up where this cricket tour fits into the crisis that this wonderful nation finds itself in.

And it’ll be important to put whatever transpires within the stadium with the imposing Galle Fort walls looking on into perspective. Yes, the Australians will not have it easy against Sri Lanka’s incessant spin attack. Yes, the sun will be beating down and the extreme humidity will make life very difficult for every player who steps on the field. Yes, there’ll be terms like “hard grind” and “hard toil” as the cricketing action takes over.

But it’ll all pale in comparison to the reality of the Sri Lankans, not just on the periphery of the ground, but all around the country. And it’ll be important to keep that in mind. The protests against the government continue to wage on and will come to the gates of the Galle Stadium with one scheduled to be held near the busy Galle Railway Station road from an hour-and-a-half prior to start of play.

You don’t have to look too far from this iconic stadium to see how much life has been impacted. The Galle Fort, generally buzzing with hundreds of foreigners, is laid bare, with only a handful walking around the otherwise packed Pedlar Street.

Some locals make a brave face about it claiming it’s just because we’re in the off-season and that the tourists will be back. But then you walk into a cafe and they tell you that the coffee you’ve bought is only the fifth they’ve sold in nearly two months. Restaurants and bars, which in more normal times would require you to book in early, now stand empty with the staff requesting you to walk in. And while the hard-fought Test cricket over the next two weeks will be a much-welcome escape just like the white-ball series was, it will not bring the overall relief that Sri Lankans are so desperately in need of.

Travis Head is likely to be fit to start the first Test

When: Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, June 29 to July 3, 10.00 hrs Local Time, 14:30 hrs AEST, 10:00 hrs IST

Where: Galle International Stadium, Galle

What to expect: There’s been at least one shower every day leading up to the Test. But it’s been short and sharp without lasting for too long. So, we shouldn’t expect too many breaks in play due to the weather. The duration of this game will therefore depend on how soon the pitch in the centre will start offering overwhelming assistance to the many spinners we’ll see in action over the next five days. The expectations are for the surface to do so from very early on, which should make for some pretty high-speed and entertaining cricket as the batters try to find ways to survive and also score runs.

Team News

Sri Lanka

Jeffrey Vandersay came into the Test squad as a complete outsider only two days ago on the back of his impressive outings in the ODI series. And he’s likely to make his Test debut and join forces with Lasith Embuldeniya and Ramesh Mendis. The spin trio will be assisted by Dhananjaya de Silva’s underrated off-spin, leaving Asitha Fernando as the lone seamer. The experience in the batting has held Sri Lanka in good stead in recent times but the addition of Pathum Nissanka to the top of the order will be an exciting one.

Probable XI: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Ramesh Mendis, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lasith Embuldeniya, Asitha Fernando

Australia

After much speculation over the many changes that were expected to transpire in the final Australian playing XI, we are likely to see the same team that played the last Test in Lahore with Swepson keeping his spot ahead of Jon Holland and Head likely to be fit in time to take the field, even if the visitors might very well wait till the toss to take a final call.

Probable XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (c), Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson

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