Alastair Cook (left) and Kumar Sangakka would be the key batsmen for their respective sides © Getty Images
After a 3-2 victory in the One-Day International (ODI) series, a confident Sri Lankan side looks to topple a new-look England in their own backyard. Abhijit Banare looks what’s at stake for the two teams in the upcoming encounter.
A new-look England side: The last time England played a Test match was 92 days ago and they had a certain Kevin Pietersen, and they were whitewashed 0-5 by Australia. The pressure will be on Alastair Cook to make this opportunity count and lead a new-look side to victory. There are many players to look forward to. Chris Jordan will make his Test debut after an impressive ODI series. It is a great opportunity that these players are playing on home conditions and their next series too is at home, which means it will be a rebuilding process starting from the Test series.
Sri Lankan batsmen’s Test against Duke balls: Swing and seam movement are two critical aspects to take care of while facing the English bowlers in their home conditions. These are not conditions which the subcontinent batsmen are used to. England will come hard at the Lankan batsmen. If the movement in the air is not a concern, then the seam movement offered by Duke balls makes it a challenge for any subcontinent batsman. Indians will be keenly watching the Lankans as they have a stiffer challenge with a five-Test series lined up against England in July and August.
No spinners to restrict but England batting still inexperienced: England were foxed by the slower bowlers in the ODI series with Sachithra Senanayake, Ajantha Mendis and then pacer Lasith Malinga strangling them at the death. However, Tests will be a different ball-game for the Lankan bowlers. At the same time, England are still a developing side. Cook and Ian Bell are the only two experienced batsmen in the side while Joe Root is the next best bet. Though Sri Lanka does not boast of a strong bowling attack, England’s inexperience makes the contest even.
Lanka’s senior pros: Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are Lanka’s batting mainstays but both average well below in England when compared with their career Test average. Sangakkara’s numbers read 30.58 in nine matches in comparison to a career average of 58.07 whereas Jayawardene is a touch better at 34.11 in 10 matches compared to 50.30. Both players are already looking at their last phase of cricketing careers and will have a task at hand to shoulder the responsibility once again. It will be a delight to watch the two battle it out against a quality England seam attack.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene. Kaushal Silva will be one to look forward to after that ton against Northants in the tour match. Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath will be their key in the bowling attack.
England: Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ian Bell. It will be up to the experienced players to deliver and retain faith in the selectors. Matt Prior has been a brave pick and will be under pressure to perform.
Talking about the head-to-head records, both these teams have met 13 times in England. The hosts have won six, and lost two. Five have ended in a draw. The last time these two played in England was in 2011-12, in a two-Test series where the hosts won 1-0.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)