Lanka aim to pressurise India

Colombo, August 7:

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said his team needed to put pressure on a resurgent India in the crucial third and final Test starting here on Friday in a bid to maintain their impressive home record.

Sri Lanka have lost just one of their last seven home Test series since August 2004, the lone defeat coming against Pakistan two years ago. The current series is tied at 1-1, with Sri Lanka winning the opening Test in Colombo and India coming back strongly level the series in Galle.

The Sri Lankan captain said his bowlers would look for early breakthroughs to keep pressure on the India’s middle-order batsmen, who have yet to fire in the series. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir played key roles in India’s win, adding 167 for the opening wicket in the first innings and 90 in the second. Sehwag scored an unbeaten 201 and 50.

Jayawardene praised his spinners for keeping India’s formidable middle-order batsmen under control in the two matches. Unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis has grabbed 18 wickets and Muttiah Muralitharan 16.

Venkatsai Laxman is the only Indian middle-order batsman to have made a half-century, while Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly have yet to perform.

Sri Lanka will make one change from the team that played in Galle as they have left out paceman Nuwan Kulasekara, who could take just one wicket in two matches.

India are set to name wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel in their playing eleven in place of Dinesh Karthik, who dropped a couple of crucial catches in the previous matches. “The only possible change in the team is Patel coming in place of Karthik,” India captain Anil Kumble said.

India have clinched just one Test series after being 1-0 down in the past seven years, but Kumble said his team was determined to do it again. “In terms of confidence and strategy, we have done whatever we can to ensure we win the Test and series. That is the bottom line,” he said. “We did that against Australia at home in 2001 after being 1-0 down. All of us are looking forward to going home with the series win.”

India will be without coach Gary Kirsten, who left on Tuesday for his native South Africa to be with his ailing mother.

Ishant Sharma rested

MUMBAI: India’s cricket selectors on Thursday decided to rest in-form paceman Ishant Sharma for the five one-day internationals against Sri Lanka beginning later this month. Sharma was replaced by Munaf Patel in keeping with the cricket board’s new rotation policy. The selectors also decided to include uncapped middle-order batsman Virat Kohli, in place of a struggling Robin Uthappa, in the 16-member squad.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who opted out of the Test series citing fatigue, will return to lead the side, while Sachin Tendulkar also makes ODI comeback after missing the team’s previous two assignments. Fast bowler Zaheer Khan and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh were also back at the expense of Yusuf Pathan and Piyush Chawla. Wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, who was recalled for the Sri Lanka Tests after almost four years in the wilderness, was retained for the one-dayers beginning August 18. — AFP