Sri Lanka have been rocked by a mid-game positive COVID-19 case, with Angelo Mathews ruled out of the ongoing first Test against Australia in Galle.
Oshada Fernando has come into Sri Lanka’s XI in place of Mathews, who would have played a key role in the hosts’ crucial second innings on day three of the series opener.
Mathews, Sri Lanka’s most experienced player, returned a positive rapid antigen test on Thursday after feeling unwell. Sri Lanka Cricket said he has since been isolated from other team members.
Fernando has played 15 Tests, averaging 36 and has one hundred to his name.
Mathews, who made 39 in Sri Lanka’s first innings, should be available for the second Test beginning next Friday given the country’s isolation requirements are only for five days.
More pressing for the home team is the fact they have now been robbed of their fourth all-time leading Test run scorer on a treacherous Galle pitch as they look to fight back from a 109-run first-innings deficit having bowled Australia out for 321 early on Friday.
The 35-year-old is also their most in-form Test batter having piled on 344 runs at 172 against Bangladesh in their most recent campaign, scoring centuries in both matches.
This is the first reported case of the virus for either team through an all-format tour that has been going for almost a month, and Sri Lanka will be hopeful the virus has not spread any further among their camp.
Australia’s players, who are staying at the same hotel as Sri Lanka, are only tested during a Test if they have symptoms. They complete daily RATs on non-match days or whenever they leave their hotel.
Sri Lanka also had multiple players go down with COVID-19 on their T20 tour of Australia earlier this year.
Fernando, 30, is not in the same class as the veteran Mathews but was tipped by former coach Mickey Arthur as being an important part of the Test side’s future
“Oshada Fernando has shown signs of being a really good player going forward – certainly in that all-important No.3 position,” Arthur told ESPN last year.
Sri Lanka Test squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Ramesh Mendis, Chamika Karunaratne, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka, Praveen Jayawickrama, Lasith Embuldeniya, Jeffrey Vandersay. Standby players: Dunith Wellalage, Lakshitha Rasanjana.
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner. Standby players: Jon Holland, Matthew Kuhnemann, Todd Murphy