Sri Lanka to confront England with spin attack

Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene during a training session Getty Images

Colombo: Mar 25, 2012

Sri Lanka will follow Pakistan’s lead and confront England with spin when the two-Test series starts in the coastal town of Galle on Monday.

England, the world’s number one Test side, crashed to an embarrassing 3-0 series whitewash to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in January and February.

Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal caused the maximum damage with 24 wickets, while left-arm slow bowler Abdur Rehman took 19 as England struggled on the slow wickets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Mahela Jayawardene, returning as Sri Lanka’s captain in a Test match for the first time since 2009, hopes his spinners will also inflict damage on the tourists in helpful conditions.

“We have an attack that can trouble the best on our wickets,” said Jayawardene, who replaced Tillakaratne Dilshan as skipper after the tour of South Africa earlier this year.

Sri Lanka, currently ranked sixth after being number two a few years ago, are still searching for ways to win Test matches without their world record holder Muttiah Muralitharan. Since the off-spinner’s retirement in 2010 with a record 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets, Sri Lanka have won just one of their 17 Tests and lost six.

The lone win came in December, when Dilshan’s men thumped South Africa by 208 runs in Durban, but went on to lose the series 2-1.

The remarkable win was fashioned by a match haul of nine wickets by seasoned spinner Rangana Herath, and Jayawardene was confident the left-armer will deliver once again.

“We don’t have Murali anymore, but Rangana has been around for some time and he had a great series against South Africa, when he took control of things,” the skipper said.

“Suraj Randiv, the off-spinner, is pretty good in these conditions too. Hopefully these two guys will do the job for us.”

Jayawardene, however, warned against taking the tourists lightly, despite England not having not won a series in Sri Lanka since 2001, when Nasser Hussain’s men side secured a 2-1 scoreline.

The tourists drew a blank on their last two visits to Sri Lanka, in 2003 and 2007, as the hosts won both three-Test series by 1-0 margins.

“We’ll have to play good cricket to beat England,” Jayawardene said. “Pakistan played really good cricket to beat them and we need to do the same.

“It’s not just going to happen because of the conditions, or because the wickets are spin-friendly.”

Jayawardene played down fears over the quality of the pitch at the Galle International Stadium, which is hosting its first big match since being reported for preparing a poor wicket for the Australia Test last August.

“It looks like a good Test pitch,” he said. “It will play well over the first few days before slowing down and taking turn. It should provide for some good cricket.”

The second and final Test will be played at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo from April 3. (AFP)