By David Green
When reading some of the build-up to the Test series in the media, anyone would think that England are facing Bangladesh or Zimbabwe instead of what we at The Reverse Sweep believe is a very good Sri Lankan side.
Here are seven reasons why we believe it is dangerous to underestimate Tillakaratne Dilshan’s team:
King Kumar isn’t wearing the gloves
Kumar Sangakkara has a claim to being one of the most underrated batsmen in world cricket despite a Test average of over 57. An already excellent record becomes positively Bradmanesque when he isn’t keeping wicket. In 46 Tests without the gloves, King Kumar averages 76.52. Be afraid England, be very afraid.
Dilshan seems to have taken to the captaincy
Responsibility can inspire some whilst breaking others. The early signs are that Dilshan is more likely to be inspired than broken. Two warm-ups and two centuries: 123 off 134 balls before retiring against Middlesex and 117 off 110 following-on against a strong Lions bowling line-up of Steve Finn, Jade Dernbach, Graham Onions and Ajmal Shahzad.
Sangakkara and Dilshan are but two of a very strong batting line-up. Mahela Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera all have Test averages of 54 or over. Dilshan has been a revelation since moving up to open, and Dinesh Chandimal and Tharanga Paranavitana are also decent cricketers. If England’s much vaunted bowling attack shows any signs of rustiness then expect batsmen of this calibre to tuck in.
They’ve got the winning habit
Despite starting badly in both warm-up matches, Sri Lanka showed great tenacity and togetherness to fight back to beat both Middlesex and then the Lions. They followed on 227 runs behind the Lions only to score 448 in their 2nd innings and then dismiss a strong batting line-up for 183 to win by 38 runs. All this suggests that Sri Lanka are no pushovers and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they were to win at least one of the three Tests.
Sri Lanka like playing in England in May
Contrary to the impression given by many in the media, Sri Lanka are unlikely to flounder on early-season English wickets. For a start the weather has been unseasonably warm and sunny this year, and in any case on their last trip to these shores in 2006 when the series also started in May, Sri Lanka fought like tigers to draw at Lord’s before winning at Trent Bridge to square the series.
They won’t miss Malinga that much
Whilst Sri Lanka will undoubtedly miss Murali and the balance provided by Angelo Mathews, we’re not so sure that Malinga’s absence will be much of a handicap. Malinga has only played two Tests since 2007 and Sri Lanka has managed very nicely thank you. The likes of Dilhara Fernando, Thisara Perera and Nuwan Pradeep (if fit) are much better than the billing afforded them by many in the English media. Just ask the Lions batsmen.
There’s always Chaminda
If their seamers do struggle or fall victim to injury, then Sri Lanka have an emergency measure close by in Chaminda Vaas. The great left-arm quick is having a pretty good season with 19 wickets to help Northamptonshire top Division 2. He may have retired from international cricket, but no doubt he could be persuaded to make one final encore.
(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)