Aussies back batters to pick mystery spin

Scott BaileyAAP
Maheesh Theekshana is firming as a starter for Sri Lanka in the second Test against Australia.
Camera IconMaheesh Theekshana is firming as a starter for Sri Lanka in the second Test against Australia. Credit: AAP

Australia insist their white-ball experience will give them the best chance to pick Sri Lanka mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana as the young star firms for a Test debut.

The hosts confirmed on Tuesday they had axed spinner Lasith Embuldeniya after a poor first Test, despite starting the year as Sri Lanka's leading turner.

Theekshana has been added to Sri Lanka's squad in Embuldeniya's place, as well as teenager Dunith Wellalage after reserve spinner Praveen Jayawickrama contracted COVID.

Wellalage and Theekshana are seen as the future of Sri Lankan spinners, with the 19 and 21-year-olds now a chance to debut after being the hosts' best in the white-ball series.

Theekshana in particular has the ability to spin it both ways with his carrom delivery, as well as get the ball to drift early.

The right-armer also took eight wickets at 17.12 in last year's T20 World Cup, albeit dominating against lower-ranked nations.

But Australia insist they will be ready on a Galle wicket expected to turn again.

"That is the advantage of having the one-day series before the Test series. You do get a look at them," wicketkeeper Alex Carey said.

"The more times you play against them everything calms down and you watch the ball a bit closer as you get into an innings.

"Theekshana has his own challenges in which ball is he going to bowl?

"He is an outstanding bowler, he is going to be difficult in these conditions, we have seen in one-day cricket how good he can be."

Carey will likely again try to sweep or reverse-sweep any Sri Lanka spinner, after playing that shot to his first 12 balls in the first Test before losing his wicket going down the ground on 45.

First Test man-of-the-match Cameron Green says he can pick Theekshana's carrom ball, and believed the fact the 21-year-old spun the ball both ways could make it harder for the hosts to defend.

"You can pick him. It's just how much he was spinning both ways that really got us (in the white-ball games)," Green said.

"It's a different game Test cricket to one-day cricket. You pick and choose the balls you want to attack.

"What Gaz (Nathan Lyon) is really good at is you can stack one side of the field and it seems close to impossible to score or survive.

"If you have someone who spins it both ways there might be potential to score runs."

Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood admitted after the hosts' 10-wicket loss in the first Test that his four-pronged spin attack had underperformed.

Ramesh Mendis was by far Sri Lanka's best while spinning allrounder Dhananjaya de Silva was under-used and debutant Jeffrey Vandersay took 2-68.

Meanwhile Jayawickrama's COVID case came after Angelo Mathews also contracted the virus in the first Test.

Mathews is free to play in the second, while all teammates have tested negative.

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