Malinga to miss second Test against India - Mendis in

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

July 24, 2010

Lasith Malinga picks Gautam Gambhir cheaply for the second time in the match, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day, July 21, 2010
Lasith Malinga isn't fit enough to torment India once again in the second Test © AFP

Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lankan fast bowler, has been rested from the second Test against India beginning in Colombo on July 26. Malinga was one of the architects of Sri Lanka's ten-wicket win in Galle but will miss out at the SSC because of "stiffness in his knee". He will be replaced by Dilhara Fernando, while spinner Ajantha Mendis also returned to the squad.

Aravinda de Silva, the chairman of selectors, said Malinga was rested on the advice of team physiotherapist Tommy Simsek after the bowler complained of stiffness in his dodgy right knee, which had kept him out of Test cricket for 30 months.

"We have to be cautious with Malinga. He was not feeling quite fit to go through a five-day Test. He complained of stiffness in his knee," de Silva said. "We are closely monitoring Malinga's fitness and we are hopeful he will be fully fit for the third Test starting in ten days time." The third Test starts on August 3 at the P Sara Oval.

Malinga had made his comeback to Test cricket in Galle after a long absence and played a critical role in Sri Lanka's victory by taking 5 for 50 in the second innings. He bowled a total of 30 overs in the match for seven wickets.

The setback to Malinga is a severe blow for Sri Lanka especially since the SSC Test will be their first after Muttiah Muralitharan retired from the format. Malinga and Muralitharan had combined to take 15 of India's 20 wickets in Galle.

Mendis, who had taken 6 for 67 in a practice game against the Indians but was overlooked for the first Test, is likely to take Muralitharan's place. The other contender for the spot, offspinner Suraj Randiv, retained his place in the squad.

Following Muralitharan's retirement, former captain Mahela Jayawardene was named vice-captain to Kumar Sangakkara. "We want Mahela, who has a good cricket brain, to be part of the decision-making process in the middle," de Silva said.

Squad: Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavitana, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Ajantha Mendis, Dilhara Fernando, Chanaka Welagedara, Suraj Randiv, Rangana Herath, Thilina Kandamby, Dammika Prasad, Lahiru Thirimanne, Nuwan Pradeep.

Much depends on the third M

Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, Colombo

Sidharth Monga in Colombo

July 24, 2010

Ajantha Mendis troubled India's middle order including Sachin Tendulkar, Sri Lanka Board President's XI v Indians, 2nd day, Colombo, July 14, 2010
In the absence of Murali and Malinga, Ajantha Mendis becomes Sri Lanka's biggest threat © AFP

M&M has been the theme of India's last two tours of Sri Lanka. In 2008 it was Murali and Mendis, in 2010's first Test India were demolished by Murali and Malinga. By the second Test of the series, one of the Ms has retired, the other has broken down.

Thankfully for Sri Lanka, it doesn't seem to be a serious injury. Not enough, it seems, to make the fast bowler wonder whether coming back to Test cricket was the right move. "It is just some stiffness in the knee," Champaka Ramanayake, the bowling coach, said, "Nothing to do with the old injury. If all goes right he should be back by the third Test."

The selectors have a tough choice to make with Malinga. "After what he has gone through - people thought that he might not be able to play cricket again, some even thought he might not be able to walk - when you come out of that state, you have to respect what his body is saying," said Ranjit Fernando, one of the national selectors. "And that's what we are doing because we can't take one day at a time. We have to look at the World Cup. He is going to play a very important role during the World Cup.

"So that's where it stands right now. If he says that he is ready by the time the third Test comes and also if the physio certifies it, he may feature in the third Test. We have no clue as to how a body is behaving, so we have to look up to people who know it the best."

Until he does come back, the third M, Ajantha Mendis, who himself is making a comeback after a rather indifferent second year in Test cricket, has a big job to do. If his debut was hugely anticipated, this comeback will also be keenly watched. Not the least because he will be the only man in the attack with an average under 30. Or because he has been treated rather shabbily by the Indian and Pakistani batsmen after that magical debut series.

Saman Hervavitharana, Mendis' first coach, at Army Sports Club, believes technical flaws had crept into Mendis' bowling over the last two years. He had started rushing through his run-up, and more importantly he had stopped getting close enough to the stumps while delivering. That, Hervavitharana says, took away his accuracy and made the variations less effective.

On his comeback trail, a few days after being left out of the squad for the first Test, Mendis did make an emphatic statement. He took 6 for 67 in the tour game against the Indians, including the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Gautam Gambhir. He was lucky to get Tendulkar out lbw, but he had also managed to beat him with a carrom ball. He troubled Laxman for a longer period before getting his wicket.

Hervavitharana didn't see the tour game, but believes Mendis is bowling better. "A bit better, but not at his best." He hasn't worked with Mendis, who is with the national team, much of late, though Mendis called him today before going for his first net session back with the national team.

Mendis will know that with all the technical analysis of his bowling, given the flat pitch at the SSC and the inexperience of the whole attack, "a bit better" might not be enough.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Ajantha Mendis continues hosts' domination

The Bulletin by Sidharth Monga in Colombo

July 14, 2010

Sri Lanka Board President's XI 514 for 9 decl (Tharanga 110, Kandamby 101, Samaraweera 101, Thirimanne 66) lead Indians 291 (Yuvraj 118, Gambhir 89, Mendis 6-67) by 223 runs

Ajantha Mendis celebrates Sachin Tendulkar's wicket, India v Sri  Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur, 2nd day, November 25, 2009
Ajantha Mendis did his Test prospects no harm with a six-for © AFP

Yuvraj Singh made optimum use of the tour game to ensure his place at No. 6 in the Test line-up, scoring an entertaining and assured century, but could not save the Indians the embarrassment of not making the follow-on mark against the Board Presidents' XI. Ajantha Mendis gave the selectors enough reasons to pick him for the second Test, taking the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Gautam Gambhir among his six.

That the Indians could last only 64.2 overs will add more concern on a tour that has brought them much bad news. Two of their first-choice bowlers have gone back to India, one is down with fever, the rest of the bowlers struggled, and when their turn came to bat they could last just two sessions.

Twin strikes from Chanaka Welegedara and Mendis had left the Indians at a precarious 80 for 4, but Yuvraj took the initiative in attacking Mendis and added 143 with Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir got three lives, played well otherwise, but missed out on a century. Another collapse ensued, and Yuvraj fought cramps, shielded Ishant Sharma, but could not see the Indians through to the follow-on mark.

After Pragyan Ojha took two tail-end wickets to complete a potentially Test-spot-sealing five-for, Thilan Samaraweera declared the innings to give the Indians six overs to bat before lunch. Virender Sehwag and Gambhir entertained in that short spell. Sehwag hit the first ball of spin he faced for six over extra cover, in the last over before the break, from offspinner Sachitra Senanayake, bowling ahead of Mendis.

The first ball after the break, though, Sehwag played on from Welegedara, and in the same over Mendis misjudged a leading edge from Gambhir, who was 17 then. Rahul Dravid soon edged one to slip. Sachin Tendulkar beautifully punched the first ball he faced for four, but fell lbw in Mendis' first over. The carrom ball, though, seemed to be missing the off stump, and Tendulkar suggested as much as he walked off. VVS Laxman didn't look comfortable against Mendis, and duly edged a quick legbreak. At that point, the follow-on looked not only a possibility but the favoured outcome.

During the collapse, Gambhir faced a testing spell of swing from Welegedara and short-pitched stuff from Dilhara Fernando, who found his edge but saw Dinesh Chandimal drop him in the slips. Soon after Laxman's dismissal, Samaraweera dropped at short extra cover the easiest of chances that Gambhir presented, which would have made the score 80 for 5. Gambhir was 30 then, and in the same over cleared Samaraweera comfortably.

Mendis, bowling in a nice rhythm then, beat Yuvraj with a googly. That was the last instance in a long time that the bowlers would come close to a moral victory against Yuvraj. The most impressive aspect of the innings was how Yuvraj used his feet against the spinners, the breed of bowlers known to trouble him the most in Tests.

The next googly Mendis tried, he read early, stepped out of the crease, and sent out of the stadium. Gambhir followed lead and lofted Mendis over long-off. Soon Mendis was taken off, and it went smoothly for both the batsmen. Yuvraj was particularly harsh, hitting six sixes, over long-on, midwicket and square leg. When the straight field was set back, he used the sweep shot to good effect, finding boundaries. The punches and drives through covers were not to be missed. There was cheekiness involved too, when they ran a single even as Senanayake was appealing for lbw and the ball hadn't even gone a few feet.

When Yuvraj was 62 off 55, Fernando got one to straighten from round the stumps. That was only the second time Yuvraj was beaten. The batsmen went into tea having raised their fifties and having deflated the attack for the time being. After tea, though, Gambhir looked to dominate Mendis some more, and paid the price. He tried to loft the bowler straight went towards long-on, and Upul Tharanga took a good catch running back. Soon MS Dhoni got out softly, guiding an offbreak to leg gully, off the face of the bat.

Mendis then wrapped his grip around the long tail, beating Amit Mishra with a wrong'un. When Ishant Sharma came to bat at No. 9, Yuvraj shielded him from Mendis, hit another huge six, but with cramps hampering his foot movement, he missed an offbreak from Senanayake when looking to slog-sweep.

Mendis got through the next two without trouble, India ended 223 short, and Samaraweera went for pain rather than possible humiliation, choosing to bat again rather than trying to go for a win against the visitors. Even as half of the Indian players, who had been sent for net practice to another ground in the city, hurriedly made their way back, bad light ensured the Board Presidents' XI's innings wouldn't start.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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