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Kohli’s 100th Test And A New-Look Middle Order – India vs Sri Lanka Test Series Preview

India's Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah during the practice session ahead of first test match between India and Sri Lanka
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After a comprehensive 3-0 clean sweep in the T20Is over Sri Lanka, team India will look to continue the same winning momentum in the longest format of the game as they take on Dimuth Karunaratne’s side in a two-Test series. Rohit Sharma will take charge of team India for the first time in red-ball cricket in the first Test in Mohali, and here are the major talking points for both sides ahead of this series.

India’s New-Look Middle Order


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Team India will be fielding a new-look middle order in the Sri Lanka series as long-standing veteran batters Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were both dropped from the squad in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to South Africa in January. With Pujara and Rahane out of the side, there are two vacant positions in the middle order in the Indian batting lineup, and Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari are the leading candidates vying for those two spots. 

Having previously opened in ten matches for India, Gill is the favourite to take Pujara’s spot at number three, leaving Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari to battle it out for the number five role. While Hanuma Vihari is the more established Test batter who has proved himself in varying conditions across the world, Shreyas Iyer began his red-ball career in fine fashion with a century on debut against New Zealand in December and looks in incredible touch following his Player of the series performance against Sri Lanka in the T20Is.

The Sri Lankan Threat


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India remain unbeaten in their last eight outings against Sri Lanka in Test cricket, and that streak is expected to continue in this series, with the Men in Blue losing only two Tests in the last eight years on home soil. However, despite their poor recent record against the Men in Blue, Sri Lanka currently sits atop the ICC World Test Championship Points table with two wins from two Tests against the West Indies in this WTC cycle and are unbeaten in their last six Test matches.

While the likes of Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana and Ramesh Mendis have been ruled out of the series due to injury, Dimuth Karanuratne’s side welcomes back the return of senior batters Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Thirimane and Kusal Mendis following the lifting of their suspension. Amongst the bowlers, Sri Lanka do have a potent pace attack including Suranga Lakmal and Dushmantha Chameera, which is well complemented by left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, who picked up 32 wickets at an average of 27 in 2021.

Kohli’s 100th Test


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The first Test between India and Sri Lanka in Mohali marks a special milestone for former Indian captain Virat Kohli, as he takes the field in red-ball cricket for the 100th time. Kohli will become only the 12th Indian cricketer to reach a century of Test matches after Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh and most recently, Ishant Sharma

Kohli has scored 7962 runs in 99 Tests at an average of 50.39 with 27 centuries to his name, but the 33-year-old has infamously gone over two years without a three-figure score in Test cricket, stretching back to November 2019. However, the last time Sri Lanka toured India for a red-ball series in 2017, Kohli scored 610 runs in three Tests with an average of 152, and the former captain will be hoping to recreate that form against the Islanders in the upcoming series.


[Featured Image Credit: ANI]