Sri Lanka will look to beat England in their own backyard © AFP (File Photo)
England and Sri Lanka are all set for another riveting contest. This time around, it is a two-match Test series which follows a hard-fought One-Day International (ODI) affair that the tourists won 3-2. The Test series is expected to be as exciting as the One-Day International series. Sri Lanka would be fancying their chances given the fact that England are in a rebuilding phase. Devarchit Varma analyses the Sri Lankan squad and explains why they have a chance to win.
After the ICC World Cup 2011, the English summer witnessed two champion sides from the Indian subcontinent visiting England shores. Interestingly, these two sides were the ones that played in the final of the tournament. While Sri Lanka went down fighting 1-0 in the three-match Test series, India were blanked 4-0 in a humiliating manner. It was not that India were missing their star players or were in a rebuilding phase of sorts, but they lacked the fight — something that Sri Lanka did not despite crashing to a humiliating defeat at Cardiff, where they were shot out for just 82 on the final day in the opening Test.
This year too, Sri Lanka and India would be playing Test series in the English summer. While Sri Lanka would be playing only two Tests, India are set for a long tour. With England going through a tough phase, Sri Lanka have an opportunity to win the Test series, but for that to happen, they will have to click as a unit.
In Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka have a pair that can not only steady the ship at troubled times, but their ability to drop anchor and perform well in pressure situations provide them an edge over England. Barring Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, England lack experience in their batting order and this would be one of the crucial aspects to look out for in the upcoming series.
The return of Prasanna Jayawardene not only boosts their side, but it also means that Sangakkara would be free of wicketkeeping responsibilities and can concentrate on his batting. For Sri Lanka to win, they would need their top guns to fire. Here, Mahela and Sangakkara can inspire them. Both the players are nearing to the end of their glorious career, and the Angelo Mathews-led side would aim to give them a fitting farewell – like they did by beating India in the ICC World T20 2014, earlier this year.
The presence of Nuwan Pradeep, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dhammika Prasad and Chanaka Welegedara provides them options to form a potential pace attack, and in Rangana Herath, they have a star spinner who has the ability to turn around the game in a short span of time.
Tillakaratne Dilshan scored a magnificent 193 in the second Test of the last tour at Lord’s, and his absence would certainly be felt by the Sri Lankan side in this series. However, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne and vice-captain, Lahiru Thirimanne are capable enough to fill the shoes of Dilshan and provide them rollicking starts that they used to get.
Sri Lanka are on a roll having won everything on their long tour of Bangladesh earlier this year, including the ICC World T20 2014. Their win in ODI series would certainly give them enough fuel to finish on the winning side at the end of this short Test series. It is up to England to show how much have they recovered after the disaster in Australia, and if they can find that magical form and consistency that helped them to reach the pinnacle of success in Tests.
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)