Marsh set for debut; Welegedara in doubt

“We are expecting some changes in the side but we will decide the final team this evening,” captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said.

“Chanaka Welegedara also has a pain in his knee and his inclusion will depend on the outcome of a fitness test.”

Should Welegedara sit out the game, seamer Shaminda Eranga could make his Test debut on Thursday, having made his one-day international debut last month.

Mendis is also expected to be recalled for Sri Lanka, who lost by the opening Test by 125 runs. That puts the hosts in a must-win situation in the three-match series if they are to notch only their second-ever series victory over Australia.

The pitch at Pallekele will be novel to both sides, with this Test being just the second on the ground, while the first saw little play due to rain.

Sri Lanka’s batsmen struggled in Galle, dismissed for 105 in the first innings on a pitch rated poor by the match referee. “All our batsmen know where they fell short but that was not a good pitch,” Dilshan said. “Here we have a good pitch for batting, good for Test cricket. I hope our batsmen will be back among the runs and be a strength to the team.”

Shaun Marsh is expected to make his Test debut for Australia, replacing former captain Ricky Ponting, who has returned home for the birth of his second child. The 28-year-old Marsh has played 35 one-dayers and has a healthy average of 37 in first-class cricket.

Marsh, accustomed to playing at the top of the batting order, should fill Ponting’s number three slot, meaning the team would not have to shuffle a batting order that performed strongly in the first Test. Apart from Marsh’s inclusion, the visitors are expected to retain the same line-up.

“I could have moved to three, Usman (Khawaja) cou-ld have batted at three... he has done it before,” Australia skipper Michael Clarke said.   

“I thought for the benefit of the team, that straight swap Shaun in for Ricky... probably causes less disruption.”

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