By Jake Goodwill
- England face Sri Lanka in a three Test Series starting on May 19th
- England start the series as clear favourites but a number of batsman are under pressure
- Sri Lanka have undergone many changes with a number of inexperienced players looking to establish themselves at the top level
On the 19 May England face a Sri Lanka team in transition at Headingley in the first Test of the summer. Gone are the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene which leaves the Sri Lankan batting line up with a sense of fragility in the facet of the game that was once their greatest strength. Add in to the equation that they are facing a strong England side playing in conditions that are likely to favour the England bowling attack. England therefore start the series as overwhelming favourites.
However, despite a winning performance away in South Africa, a number of England batsman go in to the series under pressure. The sad loss of James Taylor from the team, due to a heart condition that was discovered at the start of the season, alongside the mixed form of Nick Compton and Alex Hales meant that a number of positions were up for grabs. Hales and Compton have both retained the places for the First Test but with the likes of Sam Robson and Ian Bell racking up runs in the County Championship a score early in the series would be timely. New cap James Vince has been selected to replace Taylor, most likely swapping straight in at number five, and will look to nail down a place in the side.
The questions over these three are counter-balanced by the quality of the other batsman in the side including the world’s number two ranked batsman Joe Root, the Captain Alistair Cook and the ever improving Jonny Bairstow who has already scored a double-century and 198 this season. For all the batsman in the England side this series is a good opportunity to get some runs under their belts although it will not be an easy task against Sri Lanka.
England’s most potent weapon will be their seam attack. Given the time of year the ball will be expected to nip around which could be the demise of the Sri Lankan top order. In English conditions it is harder to find a better pair of opening bowlers than James Anderson and Stuart Broad who have 766 Test wickets between them. They are likely to be supported by Steven Finn, Ben Stokes and, in the spin department, Moeen Ali.
Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball has also been selected in the squad of 12 after a blistering start to the season taking 19 wickets at an average 21.15. Ball had a particularly impressive performance against Yorkshire picking up the wicket of Root twice. Although it is expected the he will have to wait for his test debut.
For the away side their captain Angelo Matthews will be of paramount importance. If he can score runs and lead from the front then Sri Lanka will have a chance. If he struggles then a developing Sri Lankan side could find themselves under pressure. The talented Dinesh Chandimal will also be integral to posting competitive scores throughout the series. 21 year old Kusal Mendis could be given the number three spot after making his test debut against the West Indies last year. The former Sri Lanka under 19s captain is highly rated but only has one first-class hundred to his name. However he has showed that he can cope with English conditions scoring 65 against Leicestershire and 66 against Essex in the two tour games. This series will be a tough test for Mendis but undoubtedly one he will relish.
The bowling attack is slightly more settled with Dhammika Prasad, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal and Dushmantha Chameera the available seam options. Prasad had a particularly impressive tour in 2014 taking six wickets last time out at Headingley. Rangana Herath remains Sri Lanka’s premier spin option and, if conditions are conducive, could be a real handful. However, given his vast experience and quality, Herath is likely to cause problems irrespective of the conditions in front of him.
Despite a Sri Lanka side full of potential, they are undoubtedly weaker than the side who toured England and won the Test Series 1-0 in 2014. England will be full of confidence on home turf with a side that is seemingly improving match after match. Anything but a convincing series win will not suffice for Cook’s side.
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