Pitch report: Galle
Ends: City End, Fort End
Home Team: Galle Cricket Club
Test History: 27 Tests; 16 home wins; 5 away wins; 6 draws
Last 10 Tests: 7 home wins; 2 away wins; 1 draw
Last 10 tosses: 10 batted first (8 wins, 2 loss)
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.
Last Time Out
Australia failed to crack 200 in either of their innings as they were rolled over by Sri Lanka by 229 runs.
Rangana Herath took ten in the match and Kusal Mendis struck a vital 86 in the first innings on a rank turner.
Australia spinner Jon Holland said on emulating Herath at the venue: “He just bowls on the spot and knows how to subtly change his spin and variations and pace and that sort of thing. I think just about every time he bowls the ball it’s hitting the stumps, which is a big positive. I try to take a bit of that on board and try to do the same as that.”
Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim said ahead of the Test: “We are ready to face a hard time, and I hope we can be competitive for the whole game, and not just three or four days.”
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.
In the absence of Angelo Mathews, who has been sidelined by an injury sustained in South Africa, Dinesh Chandimal (632 runs at 63.20) and Dimuth Karunaratne (406 runs at 40.60) are the leading scorers for Sri Lanka.
Herath has an excellent record at Galle having taken 84 wickets in 15 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.
Mushfiqur has played just one innings at Galle but it was a great one, he hit 200 there in 2013 and will have fond memories of the ground, with the ball none of the current crop of frontline bowlers have played in Sri Lanka in Test cricket but Mahmudullah picked up 3 for 70 in the second innings in 2013.
Warm and humid with a high possibility of thundershowers as the Test wears on.
The Galle surface is traditionally spin friendly with Herath, in particular, posing as the big threat to Bangladesh but the Tigers should cope better than Australia did.
The first three days of the Test is when the batsman should cash in and score big runs, and bowling first is almost never the option to pick.
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