England vs Sri Lanka Series Preview
This will certainly be a very interesting test series. England arrive in Sri Lanka, having beaten India 4-1 but still somehow managing to have a lot of holes in their side. Sri Lanka comfortably beat South Africa at home in their last test assignment, but it remains to be seen how their spin attack deals with the retirement of Rangana Herath after the first test.
However, one thing is for certain, England can expect to be attempted to be spun out like South Africa. It is likely that England will face very little pace bowling, if any, and it will literally be trial by spin.
Lets start with the home side. It is very difficult to predict Sri Lanka’s starting XI, and even how they are going to play because they are a young side and there is very little continuity of selection. In the ODIs, Sri Lanka were horrific, until the final ODI where they destroyed an understrength English side. Danushka Gunathilaka’s ban from all formats means that there is a spot available at the top of the order in the Sri Lankan side to partner the the formidable Karunaratne. Dimuth Karunaratne and skipper Dinesh Chandimal will be key wickets for the Sri Lankans, and as 2 of their most experienced players, Sri Lanka need big runs from them. The opening spot will go to Kaushal Silva, who averages an underwhelming 29 in 40 tests. At home, Sri Lanka have a strong middle order with Dhananjay de Silva at 3, Kusal Mendis at 4, Dinesh Chandimal at 5 and Angelo Mathews at 6. This is clearly Sri Lanka’s strongest batting lineup, and for some crazy reason, be it selection or injury, Sri Lanka have always been missing at least one of these players (or they have opened with Kusal Mendis). Batting is now Sri Lanka’s strength, especially after the retirement of Rangana Herath. The aggressive Niroshan Dickwella should be in at 7 with the style of pitches expected, where spinners are expected to have lots of assistance. With the 4 bowlers, Rangana Herath with all of 430 test wickets will be in the side for the first test along side Dilruwan Perera leading the spin attack. Suranga Lakmal, who is finally beginning to look like a proper test bowler causing trouble to batsmen in slightly helpful conditions (like the Eden Gardens test vs India) will lead the pace attack and their 4th bowler will presumably be Lakshan Sandakan or Lahiru Kumar, depending on conditions. If Sri Lanka play Kumara, Sri Lanka will fancy their chances at a fragile England top order through Lakmal and Kumara. Otherwise, the trio of Sandakan, Herath and Perera will give England a difficult time.
Predicted XI : 1. Kaushal Silva , 2. Dimuth Karunaratne , 3. Dhananjay de Silva , 4. Kusal Mendis , 5. Dinesh Chandimal (c) , 6. Angelo Mathews , 7. Niroshan Dickwella , 8. Dilruwan Perera , 9. Suranga Lakmal , 10. Rangana Herath , 11. Lahiru Kumara / Lakshan Sandakan
England have a lot of selection issues. Keaton Jennings has kept his spot after a lean Indian side, and through his sweeps and reverse sweeps, has a chance to re-establish his credentials as an England opener. Rory Burns finally gets his opportunity after seasons and seasons of successful run scoring at the top of the order. Alastair Cook’s solidity will be missed, but with Burns, England have an opener they can fully commit to with the knowledge that he is the most successful English opener in County Cricket. Jonny Bairstow is probably out for the first test, and with Joe Denly struggling in the warm up matches in all 3 facets of his game (a duck, conceding 43 runs in 5 overs and a dropped catch in the first game), it will presumably be Ben Foakes coming into the side. England’s batting all rounders will have to step up, especially if England play 3 spinners in Moeen, Leach and Rashid. It would mean that Buttler could potentially bat as high as 3 or 4 and it is probably something England may not want to experiment with. If you pencil in Root at 4, then Buttler may bat at 3, with Stokes, Moeen and Foakes making the top 7. 3 spinners would be an aggressive approach giving the nature of the pitches that are to be expected. Sam Curran looks toothless in Asian conditions with the ball, but it is possible that in the future he could become a good enough batsman to bat in the top 6. It is entirely possible he’s good enough now, but he has a few too many names in front of him to get a look in. Ollie Stone is an exciting prospect, and with all of the all rounders that England will throw into the mix it is possible that they can afford to pick one wildcard pick in Stone with his impressive pace.
For England to win in Sri Lanka, Burns, Jennings and Root will have to score, and all rounders like Stokes and Moeen and possibly Woakes or Curran if they play will have to score heavily and bowl tidily for the bowlers to pick up wickets. England’s quicks will have to be a lot more penetrating than they were in England’s tours to India and Australia as well for them to be successful.
There are some very difficult decisions for England’s management ahead of them, mostly lower down the order, and the biggest one of all, who will bat at 3? Root may move up to 3, or they may give the position to Moeen Ali or maybe even Ollie Pope.
Predicted Line-up : 1. Rory Burns , 2. Keaton Jennings , 3. Joe Root (c) , 4. Jos Buttler , 5. Ben Stokes , 6. Moeen Ali , 7. Ben Foakes (wk) / Ollie Pope , 8. Chris Woakes / Sam Curran, 9. Adil Rashid / Jack Leach , 10. Stuart Broad / Ollie Stone , 11. James Anderson