File photo – Having begun his Test career as a wicketkeeper-batsman, Niroshan Dickwella is set to play as a specialist opener against Bangladesh © Getty Images
Batsmen Asela Gunaratne and Niroshan Dickwella have been named in Sri Lanka’s squad for the two-Test series against Bangladesh, following their success in limited-overs internationals over the past month.
Gunaratne hit two match-winning fifties in the recent T20 series in Australia, and had also struck a maiden ODI hundred in South Africa earlier in the month. Dickwella, meanwhile, has been effective at the top of the order in the shorter formats, but had also had some first-class form behind him in recent domestic outings.
Among those omitted from the squad include Kusal Perera, who has been in poor form in both international and domestic cricket over the past few months, and opener Kaushal Silva.
Dimuth Karunaratne, the other opener, remains in the squad, however. This is thanks in part to his 212 for Sri Lanka A against England Lions over the weekend. He had also hit Sri Lanka’s only half-century in their most recent Test at the Wanderers.
The selectors sprang no major surprises on the bowling front. Malinda Pushpakumara, whom SLC had already announced would be part of the squad, is the only first-time addition. Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and Vikum Sanjaya – all right-armers – make up the seam-bowling options, while Rangana Herath leads a strong spin contingent featuring Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan in addition to Pushpakumara. Fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera has not played competitive cricket since late last year, and, as such, is unavailable.
Gunaratne’s inclusion in this squad was largely expected. He had prospered in his first Test series in Zimbabwe over October and November, and had only left the squad to make way for the return of Angelo Mathews, who had been injured for that series. With Mathews out of the side again for this series, Gunaratne is a potential replacement at no. 5, capable of providing a slow-medium bowling option for captain Herath.
Dickwella, 23, had to beat out a late challenge from Ron Chandraguptha to secure the second opener’s spot, but was also the frontrunner for this position. He had mixed results in his previous stint in the Test team in 2014, playing as wicketkeeper and batting down the order – he averages 20.57 after seven Test innings – but has since expanded his game. He was the Player of the Series in the 2-1 T20 victory over South Africa in January, and had also scored 522 runs at an average of 52.20 in Sri Lanka’s first-class competition before he left for that tour.
The Test series begins on March 7 in Galle.
Sri Lanka squad: Rangana Herath (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Upul Tharanga, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep, Vikum Sanjaya, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Malinda Pushpakumara.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo