Two-match unofficial test series against England Lions today: Looking for the next Rangana Herath | Daily News

Two-match unofficial test series against England Lions today: Looking for the next Rangana Herath

Malinda Pushpakumara-Amila Aponso

Finding a successor to the great Rangana Herath will be one of the top priorities for Sri Lanka when their ‘A’ team prepares to take on the touring England Lions team in a two-match unofficial test series commencing at Pallekele International Stadium today.

Master class Herath has taken on the mantle as the champion spinner for his country following the retirement of the great Muthiah Muralitharan six years ago. But Herath is now 38 and nearing the end of a memorable international career and while he is still around Sri Lanka are looking to find a successor to him.

“ ‘A’ team series is all about feeding the senior side with players and this two-match series against England Lions offers us the chance of exposing some of the players against international opposition and see how good they are,” said Sri Lanka ‘A’ team coach Avishka Gunawardene.

“Malinda Pushpakumara and Amila Aponso are two left-arm spinners who can fill the void when Herath decides to call it a day,” he said.

Both spinners are named in the Sri Lanka ‘A’ squad picked for today’s game and their performances will be monitored closely by the coach as well as the national selectors.

Pushpakumara (29) is the leading wicket-taker in the current domestic season capturing 77 wickets (avg. 13.79) from nine first-class matches for Chilaw Marians SC in the Premier League. He also picked up six wickets in England Lions’ warm-up 3-day match against SL Board President’s XI at Moratuwa early this week.

Twenty-three-year-old Aponso in only his fourth season of first-class cricket has played an integral part of Ragama CC’s bowling attack with 51 wickets averaging 16.41. Apart from the spinners Gunawardene stated that the match offers a chance for Sri Lanka batsman Dhananjaya de Silva to recapture his form. De Silva has been named captain of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ side and in the recent series in South Africa struggled to score runs in all three formats with 43 being his highest score.

Gunawardene said that the selectors will also be closely watching the performances of fast bowlers Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Gamage and Asitha Fernando.

Another player in the mix is CCC’s prolific 21-year-old left-hander Ron Chandraguptha who is having a prolific run with the bat this season averaging nearly 60 for his aggregate of 837 runs inclusive of four centuries.

“Ron is a player who keeps everything simple. His greatest asset is that he has the temperament to bat for long hours and compile big scores,” said Gunawardene.

The Lankan ‘A’ team coach pointed out that it was in the ‘A’ team series against West Indies ‘A’ and the tour to England that players like Dhananjaya de Silva, Lakshan Sandakan, Lahiru Kumara, Sandun Weerakkody and Kasun Madushanka were discovered and allowed promising leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay to make a successful come back from injury.

Gunawardene stated that with a series against Bangladesh lined up for next month, the matches against England Lions was very important for Sri Lanka in deciding the composition of their teams.

SRI LANKA ‘A’ TEAM: Dhananjaya de Silva (captain) Dimuth Karunaratne, Udara Jayasundera, Sandun Weerakkody (wk), Charith Asalanka, Roshen Silva, Lahiru Gamage, Kasun Rajitha, Ron Chandraguptha, Kasun Madushanka, Asitha Fernando, Dilruwan Perera, Amila Aponso, Jeffrey Vandersay, Malinga Pushpakumara.

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