There are five wicketkeeper-batsmen in Sri Lanka’s squad. Kusal Mendis and Kaushal Silva bat too high in the order to take up the gloves, it is thought. Niroshan Dickwella has not played since 2014. Kusal Perera is yet to arrive in England. So it is the most established batsman of the lot – Dinesh Chandimal – who has begun the last four Tests as designated keeper.
Chandimal’s keeping and his batting position have become something of a dilemma for Sri Lanka. His average as a wicketkeeper-batsman – 50.82 – is much better than his average of 35.31 as specialist batsman. His returns also suggest he is much more effective at No. 6 than in the top five, averaging 85.57 in nine innings there, in comparison with an overall average of 45.18.
But with no other batsman staking a claim on the No. 4 batting position, which Chandimal has occupied over the past four Tests, Sri Lanka have decisions to make ahead of the Lord’s Test. Do they play Chandimal in the position he has been most successful, or keep him at No. 4, where he appears more likely to contribute than any other candidate? There is then the question of whether he should have the gloves if he bats at No. 4. In Sri Lanka’s first three innings of the series, he was batting by the 12th over, raising concerns over fatigue.
“For the last few months I have batted at four and before that I have batted at six or seven when I kept wickets,” Chandimal said. “If you take the statistics, I have done well at No. 6. But it really doesn’t matter where I bat. We’ve got to look at what the team’s requirements are, what the captain and the coach feel, and you need to adjust accordingly.”
Chandimal is the only Sri Lanka batsman to make a century on this tour, and is only one of two players to have scored a hundred in England – the other being Angelo Mathews. He said he was halfway to his tour goal, with two innings remaining in the series.
“I set myself a challenge when I left Sri Lanka, which was to score two Test hundreds in England. It’s a massive challenge to play here at this time of the year. The good thing is that we had adequately trained before the Test match.
“The real feel on our first day of training at Chester-le-Street was 3 degrees celsius. You can’t simply take that kind of cold. I remember going out to bat at practice and I couldn’t grip the bat. Even after batting for 15 minutes or so, you don’t get the feeling that you are holding a bat. They were tough conditions. I can’t forget the 163 I scored against India at Galle last year, because that was a special knock and contributed to a win, but I take satisfaction from having batted well in these conditions as well.”
Sri Lanka had had a long team conversation following the second day of the Chester-le-Street Test, which they ended at 91 for 8 after England had hit 498 for 9 declared. Chandimal said the mood had been sombre, and that plans to negotiate the series’ top wicket-taker, James Anderson, had been hashed out.
“We spoke a lot on playing James Anderson. The way we were batting tentatively – had we continued, we would have been dismissed anyway. So the game plan was to let Anderson also think rather than get settled down and make things difficult for us. Some adjusted by taking guard on the off stump, and some came a foot out of the crease to negate his swing.
“Whatever we worked on we were able to get the results in the second innings. That helped us to gain some confidence. I think guys like Kaushal Silva needs to be given lot of credit. I thought Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis batted brilliantly too.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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