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Ind vs SL, 1st Test


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“We were underdogs then too, and we had nothing to lose, so we produced our best… The pressure is on India to not let a match slip”

Sri Lanka have played 20 Tests in India, lost 11, and won zero. Even the great Sri Lanka teams – those featuring Muthiah Muralidaran, Chaminda Vaas, Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya – never really got close.
Dimuth Karunaratne is leading a much-less lauded group of players, but it’s not like this group hasn’t made history before, Sri Lanka’s captain said on the eve of the series. Not even India have won in South Africa. In 2019, this Sri Lanka side did, even if that was on the drier coastal pitches in Durban and Port Elizabeth.

Either way, this side knows what it’s about, Karunaratne said. And over the past year, they’ve appeared to be building towards something.

“I actually see a lot more confidence in the players than in previous tours of India,” he said. “We’ve performed really well in Tests over the past year. We’ve got seniors and juniors who have done well, and our combination is really good.

“I think we can do something in this series, just as we did in South Africa in 2019. We were underdogs then too, and we had nothing to lose, so we produced our best. We’ve never won in India before, so the pressure is on India to not let a match slip. Our job is to use that pressure to our advantage.

“India’s team is great and they’ve got a young side also. It’s a different India team than we’re used to playing. I think we can be much more competitive here than we were last time.”

But to make India sweat, they’ve got to do what Sri Lanka have become a little better at doing under Karunaratne – putting up a half-decent first-innings total. In the 16 Tests he’s led in, Sri Lanka have made more than 250 on ten occasions.

“I know how much of a loss Lakmal will be for me when he goes… But personally I’m really happy for the opportunity that he has to play county cricket. That’s not something that’s easily got.”

Dimuth Karunaratne on Suranga Lakmal retiring from internationals to play for Derbyshire

“The first innings is huge in a Test match,” Karunaratne said. “We have to hit 300 or 350 every first innings, because the pitches wear so much here, and the bowlers have a big advantage. When it’s good the batters have to take that responsibility and do right by the bowlers. I have a lot of confidence about our team. It’s a team with a bit of experience now, and I think we will avoid the kinds of mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

On the bowling front, Sri Lanka are playing their last series with Suranga Lakmal, who is retiring from Tests to play county cricket with Derbyshire. Lakmal does not bowl a lot of overs on the dry tracks Sri Lanka frequently play on at home, but has been perhaps the team’s most consistent performer away from home over the past few years. Since 2018, he has take 55 wickets away, at an average of 22.61.

“I know how much of a loss Lakmal will be for me when he goes,” Karunaratne said. “We do have Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara and Vishwa Fernando to fill those shoes. But personally I’m really happy for the opportunity that he has to play county cricket. That’s not something that’s easily got.

“A lot of the matches we were going to play this year were in Sri Lanka, and there are limited opportunities for him to bowl in home series. We saw in the West Indies series last year how little he bowled. He’s a big loss to Sri Lankan cricket though. As a team, we’re trying to give him a great farewell series.”

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf



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