By David Green
In some ways it was no great surprise that England shot Sri Lanka out for 82 on the final afternoon in Cardiff, given that it was the fifth time in the last 10 Tests that they have bowled the opposition out for under 100.
Even as typical glass half-full England supporters, it is time for the Reverse Sweep to confidently (this is not hubris, you understand) state that England have an embarrassment of riches at the moment.
Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell are in the form of their lives and plundering runs for fun. Graeme Swann is indisputably the best spinner in the world and to top it all off, Chris Tremlett has been transformed from a meek, awkward and inconsistent fast bowler into the new Curtly Ambrose. Indeed, England are so strong that they can even afford to carry Kevin Pietersen and do without their best bowler James Anderson.
England also has a bench that is comparable in strength to Barcelona’s with the likes of Steve Finn, Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara all ready to come in if required. The youth team also has immense promise with James Taylor, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid (eventually) all likely to have long Test careers.
Moving to the 2nd Test at Lord’s, it will be fascinating to see if Sri Lanka can recover with such a short turnaround time from Cardiff. The bowling was shockingly impotent and some of the shots that the batsmen got out to during the collapse were tantamount to dereliction of duty. If Sri Lanka are to get anything out of the match then the bowling will need to be more penetrating (could it be less?) and their star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene will need to produce substantially more than the 44 runs they managed in total at Cardiff.
England on the other hand will be supremely confident of getting the victory they need to secure the series and continue their impressive march towards the summit meeting with India later in the summer.
With Anderson injured, the only change in the England XI will see the return of Finn ahead of Jade Dernbach.
Wholesale changes are likely to the Sri Lankan bowling attack with Fernando, Chanaka Welegedara and Suraj Randiv all coming into contention. Coach Stuart Law will also be casting envious eyes towards Northampton where the legendary Chaminda Vaas has just taken a 10 wicket Championship haul against Glamorgan. If another batsman is required, expect Dinesh Chamdimal, who has a first-class average of over 60, to make his Test bow.
Look out for…
Chris Tremlett will be relishing the chance to get stuck into the Sri Lankan batting line-up again after his exploits on Monday. He’s always had the talent, but now seems to have finally acquired the fitness, luck, aggression and most importantly confidence to fully exhibit his wares. Expect him to continue making up for lost time at Lord’s.
Mahela Jayawardene was one of the few to not give his wicket away on Monday and he is too good a batsman not to produce something special at some point during this series. Lord’s the scene of one of his greatest innings in 2006 (and another century in 2002) seems an apt place for this most regal of batsmen to shine.
Previously at Lord’s
2006 – Match drawn
All appeared to be going to plan as England enforced the follow-on after dismissing the tourists for 192 in reply to their 551 for 6 declared. But skipper Jayawardene led the spirited resistance with 119 as Sri Lanka batted out 199 overs for an improbable draw. Replacement captain Andrew Flintoff got his sums completely wrong, bowling himself for 51 overs and Matt Hoggard for 46 whilst only using Panesar for 27 overs (despite him taking 2 for 49 and dismissing two of the top three).
2002 – Match drawn
This three match series was the first time that Sri Lanka had played more than the solitary Test in England. They started well by getting the better of a drawn opening test at Lord’s. They won the toss and racked up 555 for eight declared with Marvan Atapattu (185) and Jayawardene (107) both scoring hundreds before dismissing England for 275 and enforcing the follow on. England did what Sri Lanka were to do four years later by batting for 191 overs to post 529 for five declared. Vaughan and Butcher both scored hundreds. This was as good as it got for Sri Lanka as England powered to a 2-0 series win.
Sri Lanka to improve, but England to secure the series with a comfortable win and Pietersen to score a hundred.
(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)