Thilan Samaraweera will make an emotional return to the international cricket arena today when he lines up for Sri Lanka in the first Test against Pakistan in Galle. Samaraweera's 11-year international career reached its zenith when he posted successive Test double-hundreds in Pakistan earlier this year. The second of those arrived at Lahore, during a Test match which was aborted after the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by gunmen on the way to the ground ahead of the third day's play.
Samaraweera, 32, had a bullet lodged in his thigh in the attack, but he has recovered fitness following surgery, to allow him to return to the crease today. "He has made a good return to cricket," said Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain who was also injured during the attack. "He has played in some practice matches. "We are looking forward to see him play in the first Test." Sri Lanka will be afforded a glimpse into the future when they start a Test match without Chaminda Vaas, Sanath Jayasuriya or Muttiah Muralitharan for the first time in years.
The trio have represented Sri Lanka more than 1,500 times between them, and have left a gaping hole in the Sri Lanka line-up. Jayasuriya still harbours ambitions of playing at the next 50-over World Cup in 2011, but stepped down from the Test game in 2007, while it now seems Vaas has played his last match for the national team. Muralitharan's absence is, however, likely to be brief. He has been ruled out as a precaution, after injuring his patella tendon in training ahead of the Test. Muralitharan continued to bowl without discomfort after sustaining the injury, but a scan showed a slight tear and he was pulled out of the side to prevent further aggravation.
The home side have called in the uncapped off-spinner Suraj Randiv and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath to cover the loss of their record-breaking off-spinner. Herath was rushed back to Sri Lanka from England where he was playing club cricket. Despite being 40 days younger than Randiv, the 24-year-old mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis will now be regarded as the senior slow-bowler in the Sri Lankan attack.
Sangakkara backed the newcomer to perform, against the side who beat them in the World Twenty20 final last month. "Inexperienced? Yes. Great opportunity? Yes. And do they have the ability? Yes," he said. "It's going to exciting to see what they can offer us and also when you are desperate to play Test cricket and get an opportunity like this you can see best of players." @Email:pradleythenational.ae