Angelo Mathews will look to replicate his form from 2014 © AFP
Angelo Mathews will look to replicate his form from 2014 © AFP

England take on Sri Lanka in the first of the three-match Test series at Headingley. If one recalls Sri Lanka’s tour of England in 2014, he would remember how close the three matches were. Two out of the three matches went down to the final ball and the third and final Test at Lord’s was won by Sri Lanka again of the final ball of the match. However, with so many changes in the Sri Lankan side, and with them going through a rebuilding phase, one may not expect them to put up a similar performance. But, England on the other hand, will be hands down favourites to clinch the Test series as they will be looking for the revenge of the series defeat the last time they played Sri Lanka. Full Cricket Scorecard: England vs Sri Lanka 2016, 1st Test at Headingley

A couple of records could be broken in the series. England skipper Alastair Cook is just 36 runs away from becoming the first England player to score 10,000 Test runs. Also, fast bowler James Anderson is just a wicket away from equaling Kapil Dev’s 434 wickets. England’s most successful bowler Anderson currently sits at 433 wickets from 86 matches. ALSO READ: England vs Sri Lanka 2016: Kaushal Silva urges teammates to step up in absence of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jaywardene

Sri Lanka dealt with a major blow when they learnt that their strike bowler Dhammika Prasad has been ruled out of the first Test due to an injury. They will hope to have his services for the second Test at Riverside Ground. England have no such worries. They have given maiden Test call-ups to James Vince and Nottinghamshire bowler Jake Ball. While Vince is all but certain to make his Test debut, there is a high possibility of Ball sitting out for the first game as England would want to go in with the experienced trio of Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. Moeen Ali will be England’s lone spinner. Vince is most likely to bat at No. 3 — a place vacated by James Taylor, who retired recently due to a heart condition. ALSO READ: England looking for revenge against Sri Lanka, declares Stuart Broad

Angelo Mathews will have his task cut out in this series given the inexperience of his squad. Sri Lanka have been without the likes of legendary players like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene for a couple of series now and have clearly struggled in their absence. ALSO READ: Sri Lanka will rise to 6th in ICC rankings if they beat England in Test series

But Sri Lanka do have the players that can trouble any opposition. Dasun Shanaka scored an excellent century in one of the warm-up matches, batting at No. 8. He will most likely make his Test debut. He is someone known in Sri Lanka for his batting, but he can also bowl some gentle seam ups as well.

Sri Lanka however have a headache when it comes to picking their fast bowlers. They have Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Pradeep at their disposal. They will have to pick two or maybe three out of them. Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera has been picked in the touring party, but it will perhaps be Rangana Herath, who will be the lone spinner.

England batsmen consisting of Cook, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes have been in excellent form and considering that they are playing at home, they certainly have the upper hand. Vince too has been in good form for Hampshire.

Sri Lanka had a good hit out in the warm-up matches, but it should be England, who have the edge going into the series. The first Test will set the tone for the next two Tests, the final one of which will be played at Lord’s.

Squads:

England: Alastair Cook (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jake Ball, Stuart Broad, Nick Compton, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Vince

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Dinesh Chandimal, Dushmantha Chameera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep, Rangana Herath, Dimuth Karunaratne, Suranga Lakmal, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Dasun Shanaka, Kaushal Silva, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne

TIME: 11.00 Local | 10.00 GMT | 15.30 IST

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)