Sri Lanka vs India 2017, 3rd Test: Preview, team news, line-ups, pitch and weather report
After winning the first two matches against hosts Sri Lanka, India go into the third and final Test match withing striking distance of creating history. India have never whitewashed Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and a win in this match will result in their first whitewash of their South Asian rivals in the island nation.
India's main objective going into the Test will be a clean sweep in the Test series, something that will give them a lot of confidence going into the limited-overs leg. This match also provides a great opportunity for the team management to give an opportunity to the benchwarmers in the side.
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On the other hand, the hosts, after losing the first two Tests by huge margins, will look to revive their fortunes and put up a fight against the World no. 1 Test side.
A hard-fought draw/win in the third Test will give the Sri Lankans a lot of confidence going forward. Let us take a look at what is at stake for the third and final Test.
Venue: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium (PICS), Pallekele
Date: 12 August-16 August
In spite of having a great opportunity to test the bench strength, it is unlikely that there will be drastic changes in the Indian playing XI.
Just when it looked like Kohli would retain the same playing XI for two consecutive Tests, ICC slapped a one-match ban on all-rounder and Man of the Match in the second Test, Ravindra Jadeja for reaching a total of six demerit points within a 24-month period.
The Indian selectors have called up Axar Patel to join the Indian team and it won't be a surprise if the Gujarat all-rounder gets his maiden Test cap ahead of Kuldeep Yadav, who has been with the team for the first two matches as the third spinner.
Axar's traits are similar to Jadeja as both of them move the ball away from the right-handers while Kuldeep Yadav, in spite of having a wrong'un in his armoury, has a stock ball that turns away from the left-handers, something that is very similar to R Ashwin.
It will be interesting to see who gets the nod. Kuldeep deserves to play ahead of Axar, but it all depends on what the team management feels is right for the team.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have a lot of injury concerns. Nuwan Pradeep got injured on day 1 of the second Test and didn't bowl thereafter in the game. Pradeep has been ruled out of the third Test, but the bigger setback for the Lankans will be the absence of Rangana Herath.
Adding to this, the likes of Suranga Lakmal, Asela Gunaratne, Dhamikka Prasad and Kusal Perera are still recovering from their respective injuries.
The selectors have recalled pacer Dushmantha Chameera and uncapped Lahiru Gamage to replace Herath, Pradeep and Dhanushka Gunathilaka in the squad.
In all likelihood, Chameera will get the nod in the playing XI and Herath's replacement will depend on the team composition. Chandimal will also be tempted to include chinaman Lakshan Sandakan in the squad ahead of Malinda Pushpakumara or as a replacement for Herath.
Pitch and weather
The wicket at the PICS has been under the covers for the past couple of days and the groundsmen are yet to cut the grass on the wicket.
In what could be some bad news for the fans, rain is expected to make an appearance on all five days of the Test.
In the 40 matches the teams have played against each other, India are way ahead of their rivals, having won 18 and lost 7, while 15 matches ended in a stalemate.
After losing to Australia in the first Test in Pune, Virat Kohli's men went on to win two of the next three matches against the Aussies and got the better of Sri Lanka in both their previous matches.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have lost four out of their last six Tests.
After having a successful Test debut against Australia, Kuldeep Yadav was dropped from the Indian Test side to accommodate Hardik Pandya. Now, with Kuldeep set to make a comeback, he will look to prove a point to the selectors and make a strong case for himself.
KL Rahul, who made a comeback after five months, scored a fifty before he was run-out after miscommunication with Pujara. Unlike in his early days, Rahul has been getting starts, scoring fifties and losing his wicket soon after. A three-figure mark has eluded him and he will look to register one when he takes the field against the Lankans in the third Test.
Dilruwan Perera is set to lead the Sri Lankan bowling attack in the absence of Rangana Herath in the Pallekele Test. Though Perera has proved his mettle with the bat, his performances with the ball have been poor. The Sri Lankan team management will hope for him to come good and make a statement in the absence of his senior teammate.
Former Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews looked decent in both the matches, but that couldn't help Sri Lanka from putting up a fight. Being Sri Lanka's most experienced player, a lot is expected from the all-rounder and the fact that he is not bowling in the series means he has to make up for it with the bat in his hands.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne, Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhannanjeya de Silva, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Malinda Pushpakumara, Dushmantha Chameera.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav.