First Test Preview: England not taking Sri Lanka lightly

Sri Lanka skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan will have a task at hand against England without Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan AFP

By Julian Guyer

Cardiff: May 26, 2011

Ashes-winners England head into the first Test against Sri Lanka here on Thursday insisting they won’t take their injury-hit visitors lightly.

If England sweep the series 3-0, they will move up into second place in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings.

Since England moved to staging seven Tests in a home summer in 2000 they have not lost an early season series.

Sri Lanka arrived in England without star-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who has retired completely, and fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who has quit Tests on injury grounds.

Although they won both their warm-up matches, Sri Lanka’s prospects for the first Test have been dealt a double blow by injuries to seamers Nuwan Pradeep (ligament) and Dilhara Fernando (knee).

Pradeep’s injury is so serious he is set to return home for six to eight weeks while Fernando is struggling to be fit for Thursday.

But England captain Andrew Strauss, in what will be his side’s first Test match since they won the Ashes 3-1 in Australia in January, dismissed all suggestions of a “homecoming”.

“We achieved quite an important goal for us as a side to win out there in Australia but our goals now have turned towards this summer and beyond,” he told reporters here on Wednesday.

Strauss made a century for Middlesex against Sri Lanka in the islanders’ tour-opening victory and was impressed by what he saw.

“They are a very good side. In both games they have played, they have come back from difficult positions to win those games.

“We will not be taking them lightly,” added Strauss, captain of the England side that suffered a 10-wicket World Cup quarter-final thrashing by Sri Lanka in Colombo in March.

As for the absence of Muralitharan, international cricket’s most successful bowler of all-time, opening batsman Strauss added: “We all know what he achieved in the game and those boots are big boots to fill.

“But a lot of the time they are filled, if not by one person then by a number of different people chipping in.

“One thing about the Sri Lankans, they are always competitive and they are good, street-smart cricketers. They’ll be very hard to overcome.”

Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said the loss of the in-form Pradeep had been a bitter blow.

“I’m really disappointed losing him, he’s really bowled well in the IPL (Indian Premier League) and here in England.

“But I have a few youngsters who will have a chance to prove themselves at this level.”

And that could mean call-ups for left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara and fellow seamer Suranga Lakmal.

Dilshan, added conditions meant Sri Lanka had included just one spinner, left-armer Rangana Herath, in their 12-man squad for the first Test.

“He has been bowling really well over the last few matches and he is a very experienced guy who has played a lot of Test cricket over the last few years,” explained Dilshan.

Sri Lanka’s top order, featuring former captains Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, both recently arrived from the IPL, as well as Dilshan himself, could certainly pose problems for England’s attack.

“The experienced guys like Kumar and Mahela are used to these conditions,” Dilshan said.

“It’s not easy playing here early summer but as cricketers we have to take this challenge even though we haven’t played outside home (Asia) for a long time. This is a good challenge for everyone.”


ENG (Probable): Andrew Strauss (c), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matthew Prior (wk), Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson

SL (Probable): Tillakaratne Dilshan (c), Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Prasanna Jayawardene, Thisara Perera, Farveez Maharoof, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Chanaka Welegedara

Time: 11.00 local (10.00 GMT)