above: captain Dilshan
Come Thursday in Cardiff, England’s quest for the number one spot in world cricket will have begin. They face the Sri Lankans in a three test match series and will be looking to avenge the humiliation of a 10-wicket World Cup quarter-final defeat to exit their already bipolar tournament. But this is test cricket. And this is England’s forte and fortress. England start as firm favourites as 9 of the team that dished out an innings and 83 run annihilation of Australia in Sydney in their last test outing will play.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile – formidably at home, competitive away from home – will surely consider this test series a transitional phase. Their greatest ever bowler has bid farewell. We‘ll miss Murali’s magic and those tiger-eyes! The body and action of their most exciting fast bowler to date is not cut out for test cricket. Some will miss the hair of Malinga, but I’ll mostly miss his freakish Waqar Younisesque ability to make things happen from nothing and turn a game on its head. The size of the task outlined by Stuart Law was evident in his description of England as the #1 test team in the world (much to the annoyance of the millions of Indian fans who believe in the ICC rankings and that the Ashes is overstated on the world stage).
Labels aside, the question looming for the Sri Lankans is how the hell are they going to take 20 wickets to win a test match? The spearhead of the attack being the sporadic-at-best Dilhara Fernando does not bode well. Mendis has big shoes to fill. And a lot will be asked of Thisara Perera and Nuwan Pradeep. It’s a big ask for new captain Tillekaratne Dilshan but an exciting prospect nevertheless. In the batting there is hope…
In Sangakarra, Jayawardene, Dilshan, Samaweera, and Paranavitana there is a batting lineup that England may struggle to dislodge twice in a test as their warm-up game suggests.
If I had to lay down some predictions for the series – even as an England fan with objectivity issues – then this one would have to be going England’s way. I fail to see a SL victory and I fail to see an English whitewash. England’s edge lies in their bowling lineup with the likes of Steve Finn, Graham Onions, Jade Dernbach and Ajmal Shazhad unlikely to get starting berths. But runs galore and a draw at Cardiff are quite likely to kick things off. So 1-0 or 2-0 to England is my guess.
The biggest debate for England – after Bresnan’s torn calf muscle meant the bowling lineup picked itself – is who to pick to replace Paul Collingwood at number 6. All the media coverage is pointing towards Ravi Bopara getting the nod despite Eoin Morgan’s majestic 193 in the warm up game against the Sri Lankans in Derby. Perhaps favouring county cricket over the IPL was the difference. Personally, Morgan would have been the preferred option for an extended run in the side.
It’s going to be great to see Test Cricket once more as a four or five month weaning period off it is just too long!
England Starting Lineup (Probable): Strauss (c), Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bopara, Prior, Broad, Swann, Tremlett, Anderson
Sri Lanka Starting Lineup (Probable): Dilshan (c), Paranavitana, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Samaweera, Chandimal, Jayawardene, Randiv, Mendis, Fernando, Pradeep,
What are your predictions for the series? Share them in the comments below…
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