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Sri Lanka axe spinner, young guns a chance

Australia will be forced to contend with a new-look spin attack in Galle with Sri Lanka young guns Maheesh Theekshana and Dunith Wellalage called into the hosts’ squad.

Fresh off spinning Australia into a web in the white-ball matches, AAP understands Theekshana and Wellalage have both entered Sri Lanka’s camp.

Their arrivals come after Sri Lanka’s reserve spinner Praveen Jayawickrama tested positive to COVID-19, ruling him out of the contest.

Sri Lanka have also made the call to drop finger spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, who enter 2022 as the team’s best bowler but was hit apart by the Australians in the first Test.

A spinning wicket is again expected for the second and final Test, however it will likely be slightly more friendly than the one served up for the series opener.

Teenager Wellalage shapes as the most likely option for the hosts, given he would be a life-for-like replacement for Embuldeniya as a left-arm finger spinner.

Wellalage was Sri Lanka’s best bowler in the one-day series win over Australia last month, taking nine wickets at 22.33.

The left-arm orthodox bowler troubled Australia with his variations, just months after starring for Sri Lanka at the under-19 World Cup.

He had initially been left out of the main squad, only picked as a stand-by member and released out of the camp before the first Test.

However he has now returned to the group and is set for a potential debut.

Uncapped mystery spinner Theekshana would also present a different challenge for the visitors if selected after being added to the team’s extended squad.

Theekshana is aged 21 but was effective in the white-ball series after being a revelation in last year’s Twenty20 World Cup.

Along with Wellalage, he is seen as the future of Sri Lankan spin.

The hosts also called a third new face into their extended squad on Tuesday, with spinning allrounder Lakshitha Manasinghe added.

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 grossly under-used.

Jeffrey Vandersay took 2-68 with his leg spin on debut while Embuldeniya went wicketless.

“Our spinners failed to put pressure on the opposition,” Silverwood said.

“We failed to push them.”

Meanwhile Jayawickrama’s positive test came after Angelo Mathews also contracted the virus in the first Test.

Mathews is free to play in the second, while all other Sri Lanka players have since tested negative.

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