Ends: City End, Fort End
Home Team: Galle Cricket Club
Test History: 29 Tests; 17 home wins; 6 away wins; 6 draws
Last 10 Tests: 6 home wins; 3 away wins; 1 draw
Last 10 tosses: 10 batted first (8 wins, 2 losses)
Rated as one of the most picturesque grounds in world cricket, the Galle International Stadium is cornered on two sides by the ocean – and overseen by a 16th century Dutch fort. After making its Test debut in 1998, the ground was largely destroyed by the horrific tsunami which struck the region in December 2004.
With politics at boardroom level of Sri Lankan Cricket casting doubt over the ground’s future, it took donations from the likes of Ian Botham and Shane Warne – who had taken his 500th Test wicket here – to get the stadium’s redevelopment back on track.
It eventually completed its recovery in December 2007, when England took on Sri Lanka in the 12th Test to be played at the stadium.
Before the disaster Galle had been a stronghold for Sri Lanka, who had only lost to Australia and Pakistan as the spin-friendly pitch worked in the hosts’ favour.
Not surprisingly, then, Galle has been a successful venue for the veteran Muttiah Muralitharan. The ground will be remembered as the venue of the off-spinner’s 133rd and final Test match, a game in which he claimed a match haul of eight wickets to end his career with a record 800 Test scalps.
The curator of the Galle ground was suspended recently after he appeared in a documentary aired by Al Jazeera that implicated him in pitch doctoring.
Last Time Out
India proved far too strong for Sri Lanka on a flat wicket with Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara hammering big tons as the tourists amassed 600 all out in the first innings.
India’s seamers struck early in Sri Lanka’s reply before the spinners dealt with the lower order, Fifties from Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera didn’t stack up against the daddy hundreds from Dhawan and Pujara and Sri Lanka were bowled out for 291.
The follow on was declined by India, who led by Virat Kohli’s 103 not out quickly powered to 240 for 3 before declaring.
Fourth innings on turners are Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s bread and butter and they bagged three scalps each as Sri Lanka slipped to 245 all out and a 304 run defeat.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis said: “I do feel within our bowling attack that we do have the ability to get 20 wickets on whatever the surface is. This series will be one where the batters need to stand up from both teams. Sri Lanka are in the same boat – they’ve got very good spinners and they’ll sit there thinking they’ve got the ability to get 20 wickets as well. That’s where you’ll see the series won or lost – in the batting department.”
Sri Lanka allrounder Roshen Silva commented: “We know that the Galle wicket is generally suitable for spinners. We haven’t had a chance to take a look at the wicket here as it has been under covers most of the time. We will take a look tomorrow morning and then will decide on how to move forward”
Happy Hunting Ground
The top two run-scorers at the ground are two Sri Lanka legends, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who both have more than 1800 runs at the venue, but are long retired.
Of the current crop of batsman former skipper Angelo Mathews has scored the most runs in Galle at 1025.
Herath has an excellent record at Galle having taken 94 wickets in 17 matches so far, which is the second most at the venue behind only the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan, who, for the record, took 111 wickets in 15 games.
Du Plessis and Dean Elgar lead the Proteas squad in runs at Galle with aggregates of 117 and 115 respectively from the 2014 visit.
Dale Steyn’s nine in Galle in 2014 puts him at the head of the wicket-takers at Galle in the Proteas group.
Warm and humid with a high possibility of thundershowers throughout the Test.
The Galle surface is traditionally spin friendly but the weather in the build up to the Test has apparently left the surface damper than usual.
It has been a long time since any side chose to bowl first at Galle and it is unclear exactly how it will play on the first morning which might make this a good toss to lose.
The Proteas seem more likely to gamble in bowling first but Du Plessis has favoured runs on the board in the past.
Sri Lanka may feel that the payoff of bowling last is too good to pass up regardless of the state of the picth.