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Bad weather threatens Galle celebrations

Rain and an unpredictable pitch may overshadow cricket's return to the Tsunami-hit town of Galle for Sri Lanka's 3rd Test against England.

cricket Updated: Dec 17, 2007 14:00 IST

Rain and an unpredictable pitch for Tuesday's final Test between England and Sri Lanka may overshadow cricket's return to Galle following the 2004 tsunami tragedy that destroyed the stadium.

The series decider with Sri Lanka 1-0 up will be the first big match at the Galle International Stadium following the tsunami that killed an estimated 300,000 people in a dozen countries.

Some 31,000 people in Sri Lanka perished in the December 26 disaster and it needed a big heart -- besides 500,000 dollars in funding from Sri Lanka Cricket -- to rebuild the stadium.

The sun shone brightly for the first time in three days when Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse inaugurated the new facility on Monday, but wet weather has been forecast over the next five days.

"I promise a good result-oriented match if the weather holds," Galle's long-time stadium manager and former Sri Lanka spinner Jayananda Warnaweera told AFP. "Hopefully the Lord is on our side this time."

Both teams will wait till Tuesday morning before naming their playing XIs after a good look at both the conditions and the untested wicket that in the past helped spin.

Sri Lanka, who have won six of the 11 Tests played in Galle, may include leg-spinner Malinda Bandara for the first-time in the series to partner Test cricket's leading bowler Muttiah Muralitharan.

Sri Lankan vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara was unsure how the re-laid wicket will behave, but believed a low-scoring game may be on the cards.

"A few practice games produced low scores but it is difficult to predict how it will behave through the Test," he said.

Middle-order batsman Tillekeratne Dilshan, making a comeback after being dropped for last month's tour of Australia, gives Sri Lanka a third spin option with his off-break bowling.

England will be boosted by the return of fast bowler Matthew Hoggard, who missed the second Test in Colombo with a back injury sustained in the first match in Kandy.

Hoggard, who took six wickets in Kandy which England lost by 88 runs, is expected to replace Stuart Broad, the Test debutant in Colombo who managed just one wicket in a high-scoring draw.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann could play his first Test if the tourists believe they need a second spinner alongside Monty Panesar in a must-win game for Michael Vaughan's men.

England will drop three places -- from number two behind champions Australia to five -- in the official rankings if they lose the match and with it the series.

A 2-0 series win for Sri Lanka will see Mahela Jayawardene's men leapfrog three places past England, South Africa and India, to number two.

England (from): Michael Vaughan (capt), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara, Matthew Prior, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Matthew Hoggard, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann.

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

Umpires: Daryl Harper (AUS) and Asad Rauf (PAK)

TV umpire: Asoka de Silva (SRI)

Match referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)