Ford backs Perera to end exile at Lord's

Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford believes Kusal Perera can put more than six months without cricket behind him to make a dramatic Test return against England at Lord's on Thursday. Perera could play the upcoming Test after a suspension for doping against him was lifted by the ICC.

Kusal Perera takes a break during training on Wednesday.   -  Reuters

Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford believes Kusal Perera can put more than six months without cricket behind him to make a dramatic Test return against England at Lord's on Thursday.

The 25-year-old wicket-keeper batsman was suspended from all cricket during Sri Lanka's tour of New Zealand last December, when a laboratory in Qatar, accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said he had produced a positive result in an out-of-competition test. But last month he was cleared to play again after the laboratory withdrew its "adverse original finding" and replaced it with an "atypical finding". Perera wasn't allowed to take part in any formal cricket training during his suspension.

But injuries saw him added to the tour party and, with spinner Milinda Siriwardana struggling with an ankle problem, Perera could come in for Thursday's third Test at Lord's.

It promises to be a daunting return, with Sri Lanka already 2-0 down in the three-match series. But Perera has already scored two fifties in his three-Test career and is regarded as one of Sri Lanka's brightest batting talents.


"He's been out of cricket for the time he has been, (so) it's not going to be easy," Ford told reporters at Lord's on Wednesday. "(But) he is a classy player. He is a special player, and I will have no problem selecting him. Whatever he has gone through mentally he will be up for it, I am sure he will appreciate every day that he gets from here on," the South African added.

"If he gets a chance to come back in the greatest venue in world cricket, I am sure he will grab it both hands."

Sri Lanka suffered an innings and 88-run thrashing in the first Test at Headingley. That match marked the start of the sequence where it became the first side since 1958 to be dismissed for under 120 in three successive Test innings.

But it made a gutsy 475 in the second innings of a nine-wicket defeat in the second Test at the Riverside. That performance underlined how much more competitive they might have been had they faced stronger attacks than those provided by two Second Division counties in Essex and Leicestershire in warm-up matches before the first Test.

It was certainly no preparation for facing James Anderson and Stuart Broad in classically overcast English conditions on a lively Headingley pitch. "All of you would appreciate that facing Anderson and Broad at Headingley is as tough as it gets," said Ford.

The Sri Lanka coach, who had spells in charge of county sides Kent and Surrey, added: "The step-up was quite a shock to our lads. Ideally it would have been better had we had a couple more games. The first one we start off with a gentle opener, then you play a team that's close to international standard."

Sri Lanka's defeat at the Riverside was compounded by the fact that paceman Shaminda Eranga was reported for a suspect action. Eranga remains eligible for selection and Ford said: "Until such time as the results (of tests on Eranga's action) come out and we know one way or the other, we have to treat everything as normal."

But if Eranga is omitted, uncapped left-arm quick Chaminda Bandara could come in. "He gives us something different," said Ford.

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