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Sri Lanka get Dilshan boost ahead of India Test

Sri Lanka’s hopes of winning their first ever Test on Indian soil were given a huge lift on Sunday when Tillakaratne Dilshan was declared fit to play after an ankle injury. The dashing opener twisted an ankle in Mumbai last week and was not available for the three-day tour opener against the Indian board president’s XI, which was later washed out without a ball being bowled.

But Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara said Dilshan was certain to take his place at the top of the order in the first match of the three-Test series starting on Monday.

“Dilshan is fully fit and will play,” Sangakkara told reporters at the Motera stadium here.

“He went well at practice today and looked in good touch.”

Dilshan has enjoyed a successful run over the past 12 months, scoring 910 runs in nine Tests at an average of 65.00 with a best of 162 against Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka are brimming with confidence after back-to-back series wins at home against Pakistan and New Zealand, which lifted them to the number two spot in the Test rankings behind South Africa.

India, however, remains the final frontier for the tourists, who have never won a Test on Indian soil in six previous series, losing eight matches while the remaining six were drawn.

“It is a record we want to rectify and we have the team to do that,” said Sangakkara, adding that a better balanced attack was the advantage his side had over the other Sri Lankan teams that toured India in the past.

“We have the men to do the job in all conditions,” he said. “With all-rounder Angelo Mathews around, we have the luxury of playing either three seamers or three spinners.”

Sangakkara would not reveal if both left-armer Rangana Herath and unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis will join world record holder Muttiah Muralitharan in a three-man spin attack.

“We have not worked out the combination,” he said, wanting to have another look at the brownish wicket before finalising the playing XI. Sri Lanka suffered heavy defeats in their last series in India, in 2005, losing the second Test by 188 runs and the third by 259 runs after the first match was rained off.

Sangakkara, Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera and Muralitharan are the only survivors from that tour, but the skipper said the inexperience of the others did not worry him.

“The boys are really excited about playing this series because they get a chance to prove themselves,” he said. “Reputations are there to be made.”

Muralitharan, Test cricket’s leading bowler with 783 wickets, also has a score to settle after claiming just 31 scalps in eight matches on Indian soil at an expensive average of 39.58.

The off-spinner, 37, who is retiring from Test cricket after the home series against the West Indies next year, said he was keen to shine against India on what could be his last overseas tour.

“We have not won in India and this could be my last tour, so the motivation is obviously there to do well,” said Muralitharan.

The Ahmedabad Test will mark the start of a third decade in international cricket for Sachin Tendulkar, the world’s leading Test and one-day batsman, who made his debut aged 16 against Pakistan on November 15, 1989.

Test regulars Rahul Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman are back to join Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh in the middle-order, with twice triple-centurion Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir opening the batting.

India’s bowling will be bolstered by the return of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who was sidelined for five months with a shoulder injury.

The 31-year-old left-arm seamer has 210 wickets from 65 Tests. Khan and young paceman Ishant Sharma are expected to share the new ball, with seasoned off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and leg-break bowler Amit Sharma providing the spin options.

The remaining two Tests will be played in Kanpur (November 24-28) and Mumbai (December 2-6).


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