Opening batsman Upul Tharanga is set to play his first Test in over six years, after being named in Sri Lanka’s 15-man squad for the two-Test series against South Africa.
Middle-order batsman Kithuruwan Vithanage also found a place in the squad, as did spinner Ajantha Mendis. Fast bowler Dhammika Prasad, who was instrumental in Sri Lanka’s win at Headingley, has also been retained, while Suranga Lakmal is touted to make a return after recovering from a hamstring tear.
Tharanga, 29, had been pigeon-holed as an ODI player, and lost his place in the limited-overs team in the interim, but has won his way back into the Test side on the back of a decent domestic season and a good run in the Sri Lanka A side.
He averaged 59 on England Lions’ visit to Sri Lanka in February, hitting two centuries as captain, and had also averaged 43.59 in the Premier League Tournament. His last Test had been against England in 2007, and his most recent international appearance was against South Africa in a home ODI series 12 months ago.
Tharanga replaces Dimuth Karunaratne, who has been dropped after he failed to cross fifty on the tour of England, though he did get four starts and averaged over 30 after 13 Tests. Karunaratne’s inability to convert bright starts into substantial scores has been a theme of his brief career so far, and had been among the reasons he was dropped – he has scored only two half-centuries in 17 innings. Kaushal Silva will open alongside Tharanga.
Injuries to Nuwan Pradeep, who strained a quad muscle in the domestic T20 tournament, and Prasanna Jayawardene, who broke a finger at Lord’s, have kept both men out of the squad. Jayawardene’s recovery, in particular, has been a slow process. He has not yet begun keeping or batting, perhaps because he kept and batted throughout the Lord’s Test after the original diagnosis had been overly optimistic.
Kithuruwan Vithanage, who played in Sri Lanka’s tour of Bangladesh in January and February, replaces Jayawardene as a batsman in the squad. Dinesh Chandimal is the most likely to take the gloves in Jayawardene’s stead.
Sri Lanka’s pace battery for the Tests consists of Suranga Lakmal, Dhammikka Prasad, Chanaka Welegedara and Shaminda Eranga. Welegedara had been on the England tour, but has not played a Test in 18 months. Nuwan Kulasekara, who had played one Test on that tour, has been dropped. Rangana Herath will lead the spin attack, with offspinner Dilruwan Perera set to compete with Mendis if two spinners are required in the XI. Mendis last played Tests against Bangladesh in February. Offspinner Tharindu Kaushal, however, misses out, after having been named in previous home series squads.
Angelo Mathews will lead the side, and Lahiru Thirimanne will be vice captain. The first Test begins in Galle on Wednesday, with the second scheduled at the Sinhalese Sports Club on July 24.
Squad: Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-capt), Upul Tharanga, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Kithuruwan Vithanage, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Chanaka Welagedara
Tharanga recalled for South Africa Tests – ESPNcricinfo.com