England Lions v Sri Lankans, Tour match, Derby May 18, 2011

Sri Lanka face tough warm-up


Sri Lanka will step up their preparations for the first Test against England when they face a strong Lions side at Derby. It's a sign of the depth in English cricket that a formidable second team can be drawn up and they should give the tourists a good idea of their readiness for Cardiff.

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, along with the other three players who spent an extra week at the IPL, have arrived so the visitors are now at full strength. Facing the likes of Steven Finn, Ajmal Shahzad and Graham Onions, who has made an impressive return to action after a career-threatening back injury, will be a good test of adjustment for them on a Derby pitch that often offers help to the pace bowlers.

Regardless of their form, however, Jayawardene and Sangakkara will line up in the Test side alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavitana and Thilan Samaraweera. This match will help Stuart Law, Sri Lanka's interim coach, and the selectors decide who will be the final specialist batsman - presuming that is the balance they opt for.

Against Middlesex, at Uxbridge, they went for two spinners on a flat surface but the Test attack may only include one slow bowler. Suraj Randiv, the tall offspinner, will be given a chance to press his claim after Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis did the job in the opening match. Herath's useful batting could edge the stakes in his favour.

That leaves the quick bowling. Dilhara Fernando is pencilled in with the new ball and Chandaka Welegedara took five wickets in the match against Middlesex. The one to watch, after a hint from Law, is Nuwan Pradeep who has been called a slightly less slingy Lasith Malinga. England's analysts, one of who was at Uxbridge, will no doubt be compiling a library of footage ahead of the Test series.

The England selectors will also be watching closely. There is a long season ahead and a pool of reserve talent will come in handy. At least one of the Lions will be appearing in Cardiff with a replacement needed for Paul Collingwood at No. 6, while there is also a pace-bowling vacancy due to Tim Bresnan's torn calf.

The contest between Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan has been billed as a shootout for the batting slot, ahead of the squad announcement on Sunday morning, but this England set-up doesn't operate in that way. They'll know who they want in the Test team. The smart money is on Bopara and plenty of things favour him. He has overcome a tricky start to the season to score 408 Championship runs with two hundreds and chip in with nine wickets for Essex, while twice turning down IPL advances.

Morgan has spent the last six weeks in India with limited success for Kolkata Knight Riders, hitting one fifty in 12 innings. He returned to the UK on Saturday and was at Uxbridge the following day netting against his Middlesex team-mates (and Angus Fraser). He'll cling to the knowledge that he was England's most recent stand-by batsman in Australia, but it's more than four months since their last Test match in Sydney and things change.

Meanwhile, a replacement for Bresnan is tough to call, but the selectors are likely to want a like-for-like option who can swing the ball so Shahzad, who played one Test against Bangladesh last year, is a strong candidate. Finn played three Ashes games but with Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett there are already two tall quicks available.

Beyond the immediate battles there is further interest from the Lions line up. James Taylor, the Leicestershire batsman, has another chance to impress, as does James Hildreth who will captain the side. One of those is likely to be in contention when England's one-day squad is selected in late June. That might also apply to Samit Patel, who has been given another chance after some harsh reminders about his fitness requirements during the winter.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rajmohan on May 19, 2011, 17:53 GMT

    i think both IND/SL will provide poor summer challenges to us

  • rajmohan on May 19, 2011, 17:40 GMT

    England lions will probably beat Sri Lanka ENG 2-0 SL..in tests ENG 4-1 SL..odis

    neither is India good enough to beat England,

    ENG 2-0 IND..in tests...or probably 2-1...as India might win the dead rubber, ENG 3-2 IND..in odis..

  • Martin on May 19, 2011, 16:41 GMT

    Quite honestly - much as I like and respect Sri Lankas attitude and spirit, and without seeking to offend; I can't see them bowling England out twice in a Test. Only rain will stop England winning the 3 Test series 3-0. I can see Sri Lanka losing this game against a fairly tasty England Lions side too. The only encouragement I can give SL fans is that this spring in England has been a drought - the pitches ought to be bone dry and quite hard - so good for batting which is Sri Lankas strong suit. I don't think it will matter though; Englands bowlers will prove too strong. See you in Cardiff....

  • sehwag on May 19, 2011, 15:33 GMT

    @CRICSL despite your animosity ... as an Indian fan I am rooting for SL in the upcoming series ... ha ha

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    3-0 Serie for SL and ODI 5-0 for SL

  • Srinivasan on May 19, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    Well, things are looking rather ominous for SL. The pitch is like a graze field, apart from Bopara and Morgan none of the batsmen are international or ex-international players but still they are making a light work on SL attack. Their experienced bowler D.Fernando going at over 5 an over. Testing times ahead for SL i think.

  • Srinivasan on May 19, 2011, 13:46 GMT

    I predict a 1-1 draw in ENG-SL series and a 2-1 or 3-1 win for India against England.

  • Srinivasan on May 19, 2011, 13:43 GMT

    @CRICSL: Since your from Asia, you should support India to beat England dude. I am an Indian, i back SL to win the test series or at least draw the series. Why are you so hateful on India? Is it because we have beaten you in WC finals? India were victorious when we were in England last time in 2007 as a 6th ranked team in the world. We have drawn the series against SA 3 months ago which is the toughest place for India to play because of the bounce. Swing is not new for India and Indians are very good swingers of the ball, thats why we have won more tests against England in England than we lost in last decade. It was like 1-1 in 2002, 1-0 in 2007. But its disappointing as an ASIAN, your backing England.

  • Srinivasan on May 19, 2011, 13:31 GMT

    @Blake Houston: What a joke, Swann better than Harbhajan? I agree Harbhajan is not as good as he was during 2001-2006, but Swann is relatively untested. How many test matches did he play against India and Sri Lanka? Warne and Murali had no clue against India. Warne admitted that too. Harbhajan has played nearly 100 test matches. How many has Swann played? You look the average of Swann after the completion of English Summer. Sachin and co will have no problems in facing Swann. I know Swann is good to bowling lefties. I ll bet you he ll face torrid time against Gautam Gambhir. Even Hussey smacked him at will in OZ. Zaheer is top class against left handers. Greame Smith has no clue to him and he even dismissed Sanga quite a few times in helpless conditions. I promise you Strauss and Cook average against India this summer would be less than 30.

  • Siroson on May 19, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    I predict England 2-0. I would have said 3-0 but putting some faith in sanga n mahela to draw one test.

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