Sri Lanka dial `third M` for Murali replacement

Colombo: Sri Lanka will look to their third `M` to bring victory over India in the second Test as they bid to replace the visitors atop the ICC Test rankings.

Already 1-0 up in the series, a win over India in the second Test starting on Monday would propel them to top spot and, according to Sri Lanka Cricket Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, be the hosts` greatest accomplishment in the sport.

"In the event we manage to beat India 2-0 in the current Test series we will be ranked as the number one Test team in the world, which would be the greatest cricketing achievement since winning the 1996 World Cup," said Ranatunga.

Sri Lanka are currently fourth in the standings behind India, South Africa and Australia.

Ajantha Mendis is the likely successor to Muttiah Muralitharan, who retired after the first Test at Galle with a record haul of 800 Test wickets, and will have another opportunity to display his varied spin against the Indians.

While he was left out of Muralitharan`s farewell Test, Mendis showed what he is capable of in a three-day warm-up game against India when he took six wickets for 67.

With Muralitharan out of the picture and Lasith Malinga rested because of a sore knee, Mendis has a big challenge ahead of him to spearhead the Sri Lankan bowling attack.

"It is now Mendis` turn and we need to give him a go. We feel he`s a bowler for the future," said Sri Lanka`s chairman of selectors Aravinda de Silva.

"The only way we can make Mendis a better bowler is to play him against top class opposition. He may go for a lot of runs but that is where he will start learning."

Sri Lanka have Dilhara Fernando replacing Malinga for the second Test, while Dammika Prasad could take the place of left-armer Chanaka Welegedara, who bowled poorly at Galle.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath`s place is also in danger as uncapped off-spinner Suraj Randiv is pushing hard for a place in the Test side.

The hosts have had some good news in that middle-order batsman Thilan Samaraweera will be fit to play after dislocating a finger while fielding at Galle.

India, with an inexperienced bowling attack, will have to come up with some fresh ideas if they are to get back into the series. They were exposed badly at Galle when Sri Lanka hit 520-8 declared.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said flat wickets did not help his limited bowling attack, which has been shorn of Zaheer Khan and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.

"As a bowling unit, you have to keep putting the pressure on and force the batsman to commit a mistake or you come up with brilliant deliveries like Muralitharan and Malinga did for Sri Lanka," said Dhoni.

"Apart from that, if you are a bowler with a normal action and if you don`t have much variety in your bowling, it gets really difficult to get the batsmen out once they are set. We will have to wait and see how the wickets behave."

Bureau Report