KANDY: Sri Lanka will play a Test without batting greats Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene for the first time in 15 years when the team meets Pakistan for the series decider starting Friday.
The 37-year-old Sangakkara, who announced last weekend that he’ll be retiring from Test cricket next month, was available only for the first two matches of the series that were shared 1-1. Jayawardene retired last year after a 17-year test career.
“For most of us in the squad, this is the first match for us without those two,” Sri Lanka vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne said.
“It’ll be a little hard, but we have to get on with it and play our natural game.”
Sangakkara and Jayawardene have scored more than 24,000 test runs between them. Sri Lanka won the second Test by seven wickets in Colombo to keep alive its chances of winning a fourth straight home Test series against Pakistan. Pakistan won the first match by 10 wickets.
Both Tests were hit by rain interruptions and the trend could continue in the decider at Pallekele Stadium in Kandy. Matches here often get affected by rain, the venue has hosted three Tests and all of them have ended in draws.
“We have a best chance to beat them because they are without their big players like Mahela and Sanga,” Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said.
“We have never come this close to winning a series against them here in Sri Lanka,” he added of the current group of players.
Both sides have injury worries.
Left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz has been ruled out for Pakistan with a hairline fracture on the knuckle of his bowling hand, which he sustained during the second Test.
Dushmantha Chameera impressed on his debut for Sri Lanka, bowling with raw pace during the second test, but is struggling with a side strain. He will undergo a fitness test on Friday morning, but Sri Lanka is unlikely to risk him.
The Sri Lankans could play three seamers and leave out left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who has only picked up two wickets in the series. Top-order batsman Upul Tharanga was drafted into the Sri Lanka squad as a replacement for Sangakkara and is set to make a return to test cricket.
Pakistan opener Mohammad Hafeez will miss the third Test as he had to fly to Madras to reassess his bowling action. Reserve opener Shan Masood is expected to take his place.