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Since 1st March, 1999
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Atapattu demands a brave Lanka front Atapattu: ‘Got to accept Jayasuriya’s absence’

Centurion: Stand-in captain Maravan Atapattu has called on his side to stand up and be counted when the second Test against South Africa gets underway at Centurion, near Pretoria, on Friday.

Sri Lanka were thrashed by an innings and 64 runs in the first Test at the Wanderers on Sunday and go into Friday’s match without regular captain Sanath Jayasuriya, who damaged the ligaments in his right ankle during training this week. The injury could take two weeks to heal.

Left-hander Jehan Mubarak, who made his Test debut against Bangladesh earlier this year, is expected to fill in for Jayasuriya.

Atapattu admitted the loss of the skipper was a major blow for Sri Lanka, but said it was now up to the XI that take the field on Friday to carry the fight to the South Africans.

“It’s a great loss but we have all got to understand that one day we’ll have to play without him,” Atapattu said. “When Aravinda (de Silva) stepped down I said the same thing. No one is here forever. It is a great loss, I certainly believe that, but we have to hold our heads high and perform.”

Off-spinner Muttiah Muralidharan will play in the Centurion Test as he is feeling no pain from a hernia problem, although he is unlikely to feature in the five-match one-day International series that follows.

Injuries aside, Sri Lanka have an enormous amount of work ahead if they are to turn their fortunes around after the huge defeat in the first Test. As on their two previous tours of South Africa, Sri Lanka were exposed at the Wanderers by their inability to deal with a pitch that offered more pace and bounce than the tracks usually prepared to favour spinners at home.

Even more disturbing for the Sri Lankans was their woeful lack of discipline, as they conceded no less than 62 extras, including 31 no balls and five wides.

It was a comparatively large contribution to the South African first innings of 386 but Atapattu expects a more professional performance at Centurion.

“We did so many things wrong in the first Test and we are trying to put them right here. We have had discussions and we know where we went wrong and we’ll be trying our utmost to correct that in this Test match,” Atapattu said.

It will be the first time Atapattu has captained his country in a Test, although he has led the one-day side. “No one can say no to captaining the national side. It’s a great privilege to be captaining your country.


SOUTH AFRICA (from): Shaun Pollock (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith, Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis, Neil McKenzie, Ashwell Prince, Martin van Jaarsveld, Mark Boucher, Andrew Hall, Steve Elworthy, Claude Henderson, Makhaya Ntini.

SRI LANKA (from): Maravan Atapattu (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Russell Arnold, Hashan Tillekeratne, Jehan Mubarak, Hasantha Fernando, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Sujeewa de Silva, Chamila Gamage, Thilina Thushara, Tharanga Lakshitha, Muttiah Muralitharan, Prasanna Jayawardene.

Aravinda in ODI squad

Muralidharan was omitted on Thursday from the Sri Lanka squad for a five-match one-day series against South Africa starting this month. Six players have been called up for the series, including veteran batsman Aravinda de Silva.

THE SQUAD: Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Maravan Atapattu, Kumara Sangakkara, Russel Arnold, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva, Jehan Mubarak, Avishka Gunawardene, Hasantha Fernando, Upul Chandana, Thilan Samaraweera, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Chamila Gamage Lakshitha, Prabath Nissanka. (Reuters)

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