Injury-hit Sri Lanka jet in

HARARE - Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford said injuries to key players have  dealt a heavy blow to his side ahead of the two-Test match series against Zimbabwe.

The series gets underway at Harare Sports Club on Saturday and the Asians arrived in the capital last night without their captain Angelo Mathews, who is side-lined by multiple leg injuries.

In Matthews’ absence, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath will lead the team.

Apart from Mathews, vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal and seamers Nuwan Pradeep, Dhammika Prasad and Dushmantha Chameera were all ruled out due to injuries leaving Suranga Lakmal, a veteran of 29 Test matches to lead the seam attack.

Sri Lanka are coming into this series high on confidence after beating Australia at home in their last Test.

“Obviously, it will be different conditions for us. We were on home soil against Australia and we are a lot more comfortable at home so this will be a bit of a challenge for us,” Ford told reporters soon after touching down at Harare International Airport.

“We also have a couple of injuries and some new younger players in the squad.

“He (Mathews) is a world class player, one of the best players in the world so obviously it’s a big loss but when you lose a player like that it’s an opportunity for somebody young to step into his shoes.

“We are on a rebuilding exercise with the Sri Lankan national side, so opportunities for young guys are pretty important. It’s sad not to have Angie with us.”

The Sri Lanka coach also lamented on the little time they have to prepare for the series as there are no tour matches to fine tune to the Zimbabwean conditions.

“Hope it’s not going to affect our play but it is very rushed. We’ve got pretty short preparations,” the South African said.

“We have worked hard back home and we will have to work very hard in the next couple of days and hopefully we are going to hit the ground running when the games start.”

Herath, 38, who is set to become the oldest player to lead a Test team for the first time in 33 years since Somachandra de Silva in 1983, said he was looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s a different challenge but I will take it as a positive I’m sure the guys will do their best because we have a good side — a mixture of experienced and inexperienced players,” Herath said.

“Luckily, I have good experience under a lot of captains so I’m sure I’m going to use that experience against Zimbabwe.”

Sri Lanka Test Squad: Rangana Herath (capt), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, , Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Madhushanka, Lahiru Kumara, Lahiru Gamage, Suranga Lakmal, Asela Gunaratne

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