Virat Kohli says it feels "surreal" that he will play his 100th Test for India when they face Sri Lanka at the start of a new era on Friday.

Kohli will become the 12th man to make a century of appearances for India in the longest format when he features at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.

The 33-year-old's landmark Test will be his first since he stepped down as captain and was replaced by Rohit Sharma.

Kohli brought his long reign to an end following a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa, where he was unable to end a wait for a Test century that stretches back to November 2019.

It would be fitting if the former skipper reaches three figures in his 100th Test, an achievement he did not believe would be possible.

Kohli said in an interview with BCCI.tv: "It feels surreal. I never imagined I would play 100 Tests for India. There was a time where I remember I had told myself I will do anything possible to play for India.

"Nothing could demotivate or distract me anymore. I was completely focused on getting to the top and playing for a long period. Things unfolded in a way that the journey kept on going.

"Life is unpredictable in many beautiful ways and I don't think we should put any restrictions on life in terms of how many amazing moments you can witness in the future.

"You have no idea what the future holds. It is best not to panic or get de-motivated by what might not happen because my career, my life, is an example of what is possible."

Kohli added: "I hear that crowds have been allowed as well. It's going to be a special, special morning. There will be some butterflies, I won't lie.

"There have to be butterflies till the last game you play for India."

India are unbeaten in eight Tests against Sri Lanka, a run stretching back to August 2015.

Strong favourites India have only lost one of their past 20 home Tests, that coming against England in February last year.

Dropped Pujara and Rahane leave 'big shoes to fill'

There was no place for batting stalwarts Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the India squad.

Yet new skipper Rohit says we have not seen the last of the experienced duo on the international stage, and it is down to the players who are given the nod to replace them to grasp their chance.

Rohit said: "Those are big shoes to fill. Never easy for the guys who come in. Even I don't know who is going to come in. You have to wait until tomorrow morning. But yeah, what Pujara and Rahane have done for this team, you can't put it in words.

"All these years of hard work, playing 80-90-odd Test matches, all those overseas Test victories, India getting to number one in the Test format, these guys helped us throughout and played a big part in that. There is no way they are not being looked at in the future. They will definitely be part of our plans in the future. Like the selectors also said, it is just for now that we didn't consider them. There is no guarantee, nothing written about them that they will not be considered for future series."

 

Karunaratne relishing the challenge

Sri Lanka are sitting pretty at the top of the World Test Championship table with two wins out of two.

They whitewashed West Indies 2-0 after beating Bangladesh 1-0, and although it would be a big upset if the tourists come out on top in India, Dimuth Karunaratne is relishing the challenge.

He said: "Our plans, those are secrets. We are not supposed to tell that to the press. But we do have some plans.

"We do know some youngsters are playing like [Shreyas] Iyer, Shubman Gill, those are the guys who are supposed to fill the places of Rahane and Pujara. So, we have some plans and will try to execute in the Test match as well."

England have replaced Stuart Broad with James Anderson as they aim to clinch a fourth successive series victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka.

A seven-wicket win in Galle gave the tourists a 1-0 lead in the rearranged series, following on from an overseas triumph in South Africa a year ago, plus successes against West Indies and Pakistan on home soil.

Joe Root led from the front with a double-century last time out and, with the recalled Jonny Bairstow and debutant Dan Lawrence also contributing runs, the tourists have gone with the same batting line-up.

Anderson comes into the side as England make just the one change, with Broad given a rest, as Mark Wood retains his place and Olly Stone misses out along with Chris Woakes. 

As for Sri Lanka, they will once again be without Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne as he continues to recover from a fractured thumb.

Kusal Mendis has been dropped after a poor run of form with the bat – he has managed just 27 runs in his last six Test innings – while seam duo Lahiru Kumara and Nuwan Pradeep, as well as wicketkeeper-batsman Minod Bhanuka, have been allowed to depart the bio-secure bubble.

The home side will be aiming to prevent their opponents from winning a fifth successive Test overseas, a feat England have not achieved since a run of seven in a row between 1911 and 1914.

Sri Lanka fought back well after being dismissed for only 135 in their first innings of the opening Test and captain Root knows England cannot expect to have things all their own way as they eye another triumph on tour.

He said: "They are a proud team and they have a great record at this ground. Not only that, they have some very talented players.

"We already saw that throughout the game with how it unfolded in the second innings. The way that they played with the bat in the second innings was very different to the first and showed that in those conditions, they are a very hard side to break down.

"We know that this isn't going to be an easy game for us."


LEACH IN SIGHT OF RECORD

Jack Leach was understandably a little rusty in the previous game, having only played in two first-class fixtures throughout 2020. However, the left-arm spinner improved as he clocked up the overs, claiming 5-122 in the second innings to leave England needing just 74 for victory.

His six in the match lifted his career Test tally in Sri Lanka to 24, just one behind Ashley Giles who sits top of the all-time list for England. Considering it is expected to be another spin-friendly surface in Galle, Leach will fancy his chances of taking top spot before the short tour concludes.

SRI LANKA AIM TO STOP THE ROT

Despite showing some defiance with both bat and ball in the opening Test, Sri Lanka have now lost three in a row. They have not suffered a longer losing run since a four-game span between December 2015 and May 2016.

Their first-innings total of 135 left them with too much ground to make up second time around, so the continued absence of opener Karunaratne is a blow.

KEY MATCH FACTS

- England will be looking to record a third successive Test series win against Sri Lanka for the first time.
- England have lost only one of their Tests since the start of 2020 (W7, D2) and are undefeated in their last six of that stretch (W4, D2) – the last time they went on a longer unbeaten run was a 13-Test span (W7, D6) from November 2012 to August 2013.
- Joe Root made 228 last time out, his maiden Test double-century in Asia. That innings included 74 runs from conventional sweep shots, almost twice the number of his previous high in a Test match (41 at Pallekele versus Sri Lanka in November 2018).
- Lahiru Thirimanne has scored 50 or more in two of his past three Test innings at Galle, after doing so only once in his previous 12 knocks at the venue.
- Jos Buttler held on to all five catching opportunities in the series opener; only once before in his Test career has he managed to claim more catches without dropping one (July 2014 v India – 6/6).

Dimuth Karunaratne believes Sri Lanka have a "clear advantage" over England in the two-match Test series due to the tourists' inexperience of playing in the conditions they will face.

Joe Root's side completed a whitewash in Sri Lanka the last time they met in the longest format in November 2018.

England start the series in the Galle bio-secure bubble on Thursday with the aim of securing a third consecutive Test series triumph over Sri Lanka for the first time.

They will have a very different side to the one selected at the same venue just over two years ago, with Rory Burns, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Keaton Jennings not featuring.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes is expected to be overlooked despite being named man of the series in that 3-0 success in Sri Lanka, while batsman Dan Lawrence is poised to make his debut.

Sri Lanka have won only one of their past seven Tests and were beaten 2-0 by South Africa recently, but captain Karunaratne believes they can respond against England.

"We have a clear advantage against this team, because they've got a few new players," the batsman said.

"From the last series they played against us, Stokes is not in their squad and Jennings is not in the team. And Stokes is the guy who balanced their team. The players in the current squad don't have much experience in these conditions."

Karunaratne, however, knows Sri Lanka - who are able to call upon Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Suranga Lakmal - will be in for a battle. 

 "That said, we shouldn't take it easy. They've prepared well, and I've seen how well they've prepared. They've also been playing cricket and they were the first ones to start playing Tests again after COVID hit.

"Their fitness levels are still up there. We only started again against South Africa, and because of the injury concerns, we've lost players."

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