The Two Test series between Sri Lanka and Ireland is not only going be a historic moment but a crucial one for Test Cricket on the whole as well, as both Sri Lanka and Ireland try to ensure they are a relevant force in Test Cricket
In recent years, teams have preferred to cut down scheduled Test matches from their FTP to add T20 Internationals, so when Sri Lanka requested Ireland to play an additional Test it came as a surprise.
Sri Lanka is playing the least number of Tests in 2023-2027 Future Tour Program (FTP). So when the hosts preferred to play an extra Test against Ireland, who may not the most profitable side to play a Test against, it took everyone off guard.
However, experts have lauded the decision of Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SLC). The decision has not only added an extra Test to the Sri Lankan Future Tour Program (FTP) but has also provided Ireland to play their first ever two Test series in their short Test history.
Apart from having historic significance to the series (the first ever being two sides) the series is vital for both the sides. For the host who have been knocked out from the current World Test Championship Final (2021-2023 Cycle) the Test series will give an opportunity to prepare a group of players who can be part of plans for the 2023-2025 Cycle.
This could be considered a primary reason why the team has dropped the players who have been underperforming from a long time. Niroshan Dickwella and Oshada Fernando faced the axe as the duo had a poor year in Test Cricket.
The selectors have also rested experienced pacers Kasun Rajithaand Lahiru Kumara to explore other pace bowling options. Vishwa Fernando has been recalled, while all-rounder Milan Ratnayake has been called, the duo will assist Asitha Fernando in pace department.
As the tests will be played on spin friendly pitches, the selectors have decided to pack the bowling attack with spinners. The spin attack will be lead by Prabath Jayasuriya and Lasith Embuldeniya, who have made a comeback. The duo will be assisted by spin all rounders Ramesh Mendis and DushanHemantha.
Hemantha have been called for the first time to the Test team. Considering he is the only specialist leg spinner, the team management might be tempted to give him Test cap.
Beyond these four specialist spinners, the squad also has Dhananjaya De Silva and Kamindu Mendis, two batsmen who can bowl handy spin.
The problem for Sri Lanka lies in the batting, beyond the old stalwarts, they don’t have much batting depth in the batting line up. Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Matthews, Dinesh Chandimalare on wrong side of 30s, while Kushal Mendis and Dhananjaya De Silva had seen average success in their long Test careers. In such a scenario, two youngsters who have shown lot of promise in the domestic cricket have been included in the squad.
Kamindu Mendis, who has scored 3065 runs in 34 First Class Matches at an average of 65.21 has already impressed on his Test debut last year against Australia. While Nishan Madushawho has played 39 First Class matches has scored 3447 runs at an outstanding average of 60.47. He made his Test debut against New Zealand in the second Test at Wellington.
Ireland on the other side are happy to play Test cricket. Since their Test baptism in 2018, they had played only 3 Tests in 5 years but they will be playing 4 Tests in 3 months, the first of which they played in Bangladesh last week.
This is also Ireland’s first ever two Test series. While the team has not played much Test cricket but the side seems settling down. Paul Stirling, who will be available only for second test is a seasoned campaigner. Captain Andrew Balbarnie and Harry Tector are solid at no. 3 and 4 while Curtis Campher and Peter Moor complete the middle order.
In Lorcan Tucker, Ireland has a very good wicket keeper batsman who has ability to score some valuable runs. His debut hundred in what were tough conditions in Bangladesh was evident of his talent. They’ll want him to keep going.
In the bowling department, Mark Adair and Andy McBrine have been very impressive; it’s the support cast that have to come good for Ireland to ensure that they have kept a knuckle on the Sri Lankan batsmen.
For this Graham Hume and Ben White have to lift their game up and give much needed boost to their bowling attack, a major reason why Ireland lost the Test against Bangladesh. They also need to ensure that they control the run of flow to put pressure on the opposition.
A positive result for both the sides will give them boost for future assignments as both the sides need to win desperately in Test cricket to make sure that they get the trust of their fans back. While Ireland would want to build a base of fans that follow the longest format of the game. They have two weeks to ensure they built on the golden chance of playing Test cricket in Asian conditions.
(featured image- Sportstime247)