Sri Lanka have embarked on their two-month tour of England, with a new look team and a new captain in Tillekeratne Dilshan. This tour provides a tough start to the job, and he has begun well making the right choice in leaving the IPL midway to lead his team in the tour matches.
Sri Lanka are missing the services of the peerless Muralitharan and the enigmatic Malinga, and therefore the team is being written off in many corners of the media as one that can at best hope to draw the series on the strength of their batting.
In Paranavitana and Dilshan, Sri Lanka has openers it can depend on. Paranavitana, in his short career so far, has shown that he has a good technique and has an appetite for runs; he along with Dilshan have both shown good form in the tour matches with each of them scoring centuries and have what it takes to blunt what the English bowlers throw at them.
Followed by Kumar Sangakara, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera, they have a middle order that has both the experience and the talent to be considered as good as any in world cricket. A lot will be expected from this middle order and they will have to deliver in this test series for Sri Lanka to beat the English.
Also the fact that neither of Sangakara or Jayawardene have any added responsibilities of captaincy, they should be able to express themselves and be free of any extra burden. They will be eager and raring to prove that they still belong and are the best batsman in the country. These two will need to handle the two best opposition bowlers Anderson and Swann. If they are able to play these two bowlers well and negate their danger, Sri Lanka can expect to see big runs from them.
Sri Lanka will be hoping that Dinesh Chandimal and Prasanna Jayawardene can both make meaning combinations down the order during the test series, as with the bowling attack at their disposal, they will need all the runs they can get on the board.
The bowling attack is clearly the team's weaker discipline. The Lankans will be missing the services of both Muralitharan and Malinga after both announced their retirements from test matches recently and will be hoping the rest of the team can step up to fill the big void left behind by them.
The attack will be spearheaded by Dilhara Fernando and as good a bowler as he is, he hasn’t proved he can lead a bowling attack. With 35 test matches under his belt, he is the most experienced bowler at the disposal of the new captain with the likes of Walegedara, Lakmal, Perera and Pradeep with the combined test match experience of eight matches as the backup options in the pace department.
Whatever strength in bowling Sri Lanka possess in bowling is in the form of spinners. In Randiv, Mendis and Herath they have three quality spinners, who might not be of Murali’s calibre but are still good enough to pose the Englad batsman plenty of difficult questions.
It doesn’t help that the series is being held at the start of the cricket summer when the pitches are at their freshest and quickest best. This works in the favour of the English as the Lankan spinners will find it harder to spin the ball in the cooler conditions and the pitches being fresher providing less turn and truer bounce.
All of Sri Lanka will be hoping the rain and clouds stay away for the duration of the series and that the sun bears down with all its might to provide precious little advantage to their bowlers as possible.
Unlike the majority of the media, I think Sri Lanka have a big chance of competing and beating England this series specially if the gods shine some bright light on the game.
After the World Cup and the IPL I am quite looking forward to some five-day test match cricket.