Sunday, May 15, 2016

England Vs Sri Lanka, Investec Test Series - Team Sri Lanka Preview

While the IPL seems to be going on forever in India, England and Sri Lanka will lock horns in a three match Test series in England starting May 19th. The last time these two teams met, the Sri Lankans scripted one of the finest come-from-behind win with Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath playing the lead protagonists.

This time around, the Lankans will not have the services of their two talismanic batsmen - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, both of whom had played a huge role in Sri Lanka being able to topple the English in their own backyard in 2014. But the Sri Lankan team can never be counted out and they do have some exciting young talent that they can look forward to. Kusal Mendis is a young batsmen and he already looks to be one for the future to me. He is compact, can score freely when he decides to and is pleasing to watch. He has made good start to his career and continues to impress and is the leading contender to take the number three spot. Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews will have to carry the middle order on their shoulders and both of them are well equipped to do so. Chandimal, with his aggressive mindset, can put the bowling team off if he can get into his groove early while Mathews has been there and done that for the Lankans since the time he broke into the team he now leads.

The start that the Lankan openers provide will go a long way in determining how the rest of their batting fares against a strong English seam attack comprising Broad, Anderson and Finn. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva had a good series in 2014 and they will need to repeat those performances, if not better them for the Lankans to do well in this series. The key for them will be to blunt the new ball and tire Anderson and Broad as much as possible so that the middle order can breathe a little more freely.

I will prefer Dickwella at number 6 and Dasun Shanaka at 7 since both of them seem to be in good nick and can play counter attacking cricket if need be. They also provide the left-right combo lower down which might prove to be useful to put the bowling side under pressure in tense situations.

Sri Lanka has taken Lahiru Thirimanne with them and although he seems to be a fine young batsman, he has just been unable to step up as far as test matches are concerned. I hope that he is left out of the playing 11 and not given a free run while players who are in form are warming the bench. Milinda Siriwardena is another player who has had a tremendous start to his career in all forma but he seems to be woefully out of form and I would prefer Shanaka in place of him who played a few decent innings in the WT20 and made a cracking 100 against Leicestershire in the tour match. He can also be useful with his dibbly-dobbly medium pace in Headingly which is renowned for assistance under grey clouds.

The bowling attack of the Lankans might not be the most intimidating one on paper but it surely is reliant and capable of getting the job done with collective effort. Dhammika Prasad has been the stalwart and has carried the Lankan attack with pace, swing, guile and a smile on his face while Dushmantha Chameera has added that razor sharp edge which was missing from their pace bowling line up. With Eranga, Lakmal and Pradeep also in the squad the Sri Lankans have a good nucleus of fast bowlers to choose from. Rangana Herath is a master of his trade and there have been few spinners who have been as good as him with the limited repertoire that he seems to possess. He is a class act and can turn the match on his own. His clever variations of flight and nagging consistency have befuddled many a great batsmen and the young English batting line up might not be up to it if it comes down to facing him in the fourth innings on a track assisting him even slightly.

It will certainly not be easy for the Lankans especially with the retirements of middle order greats in Sangakkara and Mahela but it is a great opportunity for the youngsters to put their hands up and make a name for themselves and grow from boys to men during the course of this gruelling three match series against one of the best test teams going around.

My Sri Lankan XI for the First Test against England at Headingly, Leeds:

Dimuth Karunaratne
Kaushal Silva
Kusal Mendis
Dinesh Chandimal
Angelo Mathews
Niroshan Dickwella
Dasun Shanaka
Rangana Herath
Dhammika Prasad/ Suranga Lakmal
Dushmantha Chameera
Shaminda Eranga

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