England aiming to whitewash Sri Lanka in 3rd test
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka has played poorly and is weakened. And it's already 2-0 down in the test series at home.
England fancies its chance of administering a coup de grace in the third test from Friday at Sinhalese Sports Club.
"There's only been two other sides who have won 3-0 out here in test cricket, so it would be a brilliant achievement which would fill us with a huge amount of confidence going into the rest of the winter," England skipper Joe Root said on Thursday.
The two occasions Sri Lanka was swept were in 2004 by Ricky Ponting's Australia, and last year by Virat Kohli's India.
Normally strong at home, Sri Lanka goes into the final test trying to patch a team together.
Captain Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out by a groin strain. Chandimal was injured in Galle, where England won the first test by 211 runs, and he missed the second test at Pallekele last week, where England won by 57 runs for a first series win in Sri Lanka in 17 years.
Sri Lanka was hopeful Chandimal would recover for this test, but the selectors brought in Danushka Gunathilaka as cover. Gunathilaka's fifth and last test was a win against South Africa in July, when he scored 57 and 61.
With offspinner Akila Dananjaya forced to go to Brisbane, Australia, for testing on his suspect bowling action, Sri Lanka included uncapped 21-year-old offspinner Nishan Peiris, who has only 12 first-class matches. But Lakshan Sandakan, the left-arm wrist spinner who was part of the original squad, is tipped to play. The team has been weaker since spinner Rangana Herath retired after the first test.
England will make two changes by resting fast bowler James Anderson for Stuart Broad, and play Jonny Bairstow as a specialist batsman instead of Sam Curran, who is nursing a side strain. Bairstow will bat at No. 3, and allrounder Ben Stokes will share the new ball with Broad.
England's tail has hurt Sri Lanka in both tests. In Pallekele, the last pair alone added more than 100 runs in both innings combined. Ben Foakes and Curran teamed with Anderson to give the tourists a substantial total, which proved to be crucial. Sri Lanka said it had a plan to address the issue.
"In the last game there was a dropped catch as well, and if we had taken that, the match could really have changed," stand-in captain Suranga Lakmal said. "We can't be making spinning pitches and letting their tail get runs. We have a plan to stop it.
"We gave the spinners a lot of overs at the tail in the previous games because the pitch suited them. But as a seam bowler I will have to bowl a few overs probably at the tail."
Lakmal, the only Sri Lanka seamer in the series, has only four wickets.
Irrespective of the result of the third test, England will overtake South Africa to rank No. 2 behind India.
Sri Lanka will slip to No. 7, behind Pakistan.
Root said England's ultimate target was to regain No. 1, last held in 2012.