Sri Lanka name 21-man squad, with their full array of quicks to choose from
Legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga has broken into Sri Lanka’s 21-member Test squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa, while left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan has been omitted. Unlike on their last trip to South Africa, when they won 2-0 with a severely depleted seam attack, Sri Lanka have essentially their full array of quicks to pick from, provided there are no injuries before the Tests. Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, and Asitha Fernando are all in the squad.
That Sri Lanka are taking as many as 21 on tour is down largely to the Covid-19 pandemic. If injuries occur on tour, Sri Lanka want to have players who have completed quarantine already on the ground in South Africa.
There are no major surprises on the batting front. All the batsmen that made an impact on the 2019 South Africa tour – Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Oshada Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva – are included again. Also present are Dinesh Chandimal and Dasun Shanake, as well as two newcomers to the Test squad – Minod Bhanuka and Santhush Gunatilake.
Lasith Embuldeniya – the left-arm spinner – seems the likeliest to be in the XI, having taken six wickets at 23.83 on that previous South Africa tour, and with the matches set to be played on famously fast-bowling friendly surfaces – The Wanderers and Centurion – perhaps Sri Lanka will not field a second specialist spinner. But in any case, they have Hasaranga and the experienced Dilruwan Perera in the squad. Dhananjaya is in the side mostly for his batting, but his five wickets at 11.80 had been instrumental in the 2019 tour victory as well.
It is their full cupboard of quicks, though, that Sri Lanka will be most excited about ahead of this tour. Between Kumara and Chameera, they have two bowlers who exceeded 145kph at the just-concluded Lanka Premier League. Vishwa, Rajitha and Lakmal had been effective on the last tour, and they also have younger bowlers – 23-year-old Asitha, and 20-year-old Dilshan Madushanka around.
The tour begins on December 20 with a three-day practice match at Benoni. The first of two Test starts on Boxing Day at Centurion.
Sri Lanka squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Oshada Fernandom 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 Gunatilake, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf