Sunday 16 December 2007 

Galle Faces Race Against Time For Third Test

England have been boosted by the improved fitness of pace bowler Matthew Hoggard as they try to level the series against Sri Lanka in the third test.

But the real focus on the opening day of the match on Tuesday will be the re-opening of the Galle stadium, destroyed by the 2004 tsunami.

The run-up to the third test has been dominated by concerns that the new stadium, rebuilt after being destroyed three years ago, will not be ready in time.

Hundreds of workman continued to work overtime throughout Sunday after monsoon rains left the playing area waterlogged, while sections of the stadium were still being constructed.

Team practices have been severely disrupted by inadequate training facilities but the England team have made a point of understanding the importance of the venue's re-opening.

"It's obviously not finished at the moment but they are working very hard and progressing day by day, so hopefully it'll be playable," Paul Collingwood told reporters.

"Driving down in the bus from Colombo, there was a real sickening feeling seeing the destruction that was caused and that's why it is vital that we just get on with it."

In the England camp, batsman Kevin Pietersen said Hoggard, who missed the second drawn test in Colombo with a back injury, could make a comeback.

"He had a bowl this morning and he looks okay, so I think his name could go in the hat on Monday," Pietersen told reporters on Sunday.

However, coach Peter Moores said Hoggard would only play provided there was no risk to his health.

"Conditions here are such that it you do lose a bowler midway through a match then it becomes very difficult to take 20 wickets," Moores said.

England trail the series 1-0 after losing the first test by 88 runs and drawing the second.

SPIN BOWLERS

Galle has traditionally favoured spin bowlers but no one is really sure how the new pitch will play.

"There have been a couple of low-scoring practice games but we really don't know what is going to happen," Sri Lanka vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara told Reuters.

Sri Lanka, though, look likely to change the formation of their bowling attack and play with two frontline spinners, Muttiah Muralitharan and leg spinner Malinga Bandara.

Sri Lanka have also recalled Tillakaratne Dilshan to try a bolster their middle order. Dilshan also provide a third spin option, if required.

England may also consider including a second spinner with off spinner Graeme Swann in line for a possible test debut.

England squad:

Michael Vaughan (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Matthew Hoggard, Phil Mustard (wicketkeeper), Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison

Sri Lanka squad:

Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Michael Vandort, Upul Tharanga, Chamara Silva, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Prasanna Jayawardene, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Chanaka Welagedera, Malinga Bandara, Sujeewa de Silva, Muttiah Muralitharan.

© Reuters 2007