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Theekshana in line for Test debut after Sri Lanka's Covid outbreak

Sri Lanka's Maheesh Theekshana (C) attends a practice session at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle. -- AFP
Sri Lanka's Maheesh Theekshana (C) attends a practice session at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle. -- AFP

GALLE, SRI LANKA: Dimuth Karunaratne said on Thursday he hopes Sri Lanka's spin reinforcements will deliver despite their team's Covid outbreak on the eve of the second Test against Australia.

One-day heroes Maheesh Theekshana and Dunith Wellalage could be handed Test caps as the hosts bid for a comeback in the final Test starting on Friday on an expected turner at Galle.

Batting all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva, leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay and fast bowler Asitha Fernando were the latest to get the virus after left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama was ruled out on Tuesday.

"That's really tough," Karunaratne told reporters. "We were planning for the match two days earlier but it's not easy when you are not able to finalise a proper XI, it's not easy as captain."

The team will undergo another round of testing before Karunaratne gets down to finalise the XI but the captain believes Theekshana could replace de Silva.

"All the spinners are available in the 13-man squad, so if they are cleared to play we can use Prabath (Jayasuriya) as a left-arm spinner," said Karunaratne.

"And Maheesh because we don't have Dhananjaya de Silva as a second off-spin bowler as they have plenty of left-handers in top-order.

"We are not thinking about third spinner yet. First, we are going to have the (Covid) tests and think about whether we want to play an all-rounder in Dunith or spinner in (Lakshan) Sandakan."

Theekshana, a mystery spinner who turns the ball both ways, claimed four wickets and kept Australia's batsmen in check in the ODI series which the hosts won 3-2.

And 19-year-old Wellalage returned as the leading bowler in the ODIs as he picked up nine wickets with his left-arm spin.

Karunaratne said Test cricket is a different ball game but backed Theekshana to replicate his white-ball success in the longer format.

"He is a good bowler. We saw him giving trouble to the left-handers and the right-handers in one-dayers," said Karunaratne.

"Hopefully he does the same thing. Just want him to do the same what he did in the ODIs, keep it simple."

The hosts suffered a 10-wicket hammering at the hands of Australia in the opener which ended inside three days. -- AFP

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