Galle (Sri Lanka), July 7 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s Test squad has been rocked by three more Covid-19 positive cases ahead of Friday’s second Test against Australia here.
Key batter Dhananjaya de Silva, pacer Asitha Fernando and spinner Jeffrey Vandersay, who all played in the first Test, returned positive Covid tests on Wednesday, ruling them out of the series finale.
It brings to five the number of Sri Lankan players who have tested positive for the virus in the past week.
All three players were found to be positive during a Rapid Antigen Test conducted on Wednesday. After the latest positive results, the rest of the players and support staff of the Test squad underwent another Rapid Antigen Test. All returned negative.
While, Dhananjaya, Vandersay, and Fernando have been relocated to a different hotel and remain in isolation. Praveen Jayawickrama too was relocated to the same hotel. In the meantime, Lakshan Sandakan was drafted into the squad.
There was some good news for the hosts as former skipper Angelo Mathews will be available for the second Test. Mathews had tested positive during last week’s first Test, which forced him out of the side partway through the match.
In the latest set of Covid positive cases, Sri Lanka have lost key players — their best fast bowler from the first Test (Fernando), their No.5 who has a Test ton to his name against Australia and whose handy off-spin got the wicket of Travis Head (Dhananjaya) and their wrist-spinner (Vandersay).
Kasun Rajitha, the right-arm paceman who took 11 wickets in Sri Lanka’s preceding two-Test series against Bangladesh including a five-for in Dhaka, is the logical replacement for Fernando.
Kamindu Mendis, a batting allrounder who has previously made headlines for his ability to bowl finger spin with both arms, shapes as the only like-for-like player to Dhananjaya, according to a report in cricket.com.au.
Batter Oshada Fernando, who replaced Mathews during the first Test, is also an option to retain his spot in Dhanajaya’s absence.
Sri Lanka have more options on the spin front, even before the addition of Sandakan, who made his debut against Australia in 2016 but has not played Test cricket since 2018. Uncapped duo Dunith Wellalage and Prabath Jayasuriya are the two left-arm spin options, while crafty mystery tweaker Maheesh Theekshana could also complement incumbent off-spinner Ramesh Mendis after impressing in the limited-overs series.