Uncapped batsmen Sadeera Samarawickrama and Roshen Silva have earned call-ups to the Sri Lanka Test squad touring the UAE.
Back in the fray, meanwhile, are two relatively experienced batsmen. Lahiru Thirimanne, who last played a Test in June 2016, has been recalled, as vice-captain no less. Opener Kaushal Silva, whose most recent Test was in South Africa in January, is also in the squad.
Among those absent are Asela Gunaratne and Kusal Perera , who remain unavailable through injury, and Upul Tharanga, who has ruled himself out of contention from Test cricket for six months. Angelo Mathews will also miss the first Test, at least, due to a calf injury.
On the bowling front, Sri Lanka have opted to omit the pace of Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara, and will instead rely on seam movement and control. Leading the quicks will be Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal, who had both performed creditably on Sri Lanka’s most recent tour to the UAE, in 2013-14. Left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando, and Lahiru Gamage – who is uncapped in Tests – are the other frontline seam options.
A familiar trio form the slow-bowling contingent: left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan has been picked alongside fingerspinners Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera. There is no place, however, for Malinda Pushpakumara, the left-arm spinner who debuted during Sri Lanka’s home series against India in August.
Samarawickrama’s call-up was somewhat expected, given his returns in the Premier League Tournament this year. He topped the Tier A run-charts, hitting 1016 runs at an average of 59.76, while also keeping wicket for Colts Cricket Club. In February, he had also made 185 against an England Lion’s attack featuring Toby Roland-Jones and Tom Curran, in Dambulla. Even if Niroshan Dickwella – the other wicketkeeper-batsman in the squad – takes the gloves, Samarawickrama could be in line for a middle-order position.
While this is Samarawickrama’s first entry into the national squad, Roshen Silva had been in a Sri Lanka Test squad last year, without breaking into the XI. He has also been selected on the basis of solid first-class performance. He scored 614 runs at 55.81 in this year’s Premier League tournament, and has maintained an average of 48.19 over 156 first-class innings, typically batting in the middle order.
Places for these two batsmen means Dhananjaya de Silva – who had been so impressive in 2016 – no longer even finds a place in the main squad. He is among five players who are on standby – the others being spinners Akila Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay, allrounder Dasun Shanaka, and fast bowler Kumara.
Sri Lanka are set to depart for the tour on Sunday, and will begin their first Test in Abu Dhabi from September 28. The second Test, in Dubai, will be a day-night encounter.
Sri Lanka squad: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)