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June 15, 2011
Match FactsJune 16-20, Rose Bowl
The Big Picture
It's been a strange Test series in many ways. Frequent interruptions by the weather and two matches that have drifted for large periods (except, of course, the stunning final session in Cardiff which gave England their 1-0 lead) means the contest hasn't really bubbled up. Now, at the final Test, Sri Lanka cling to the prospect of pulling off a drawn series while England have their sights set on establishing a clear margin between the teams.
The odds suggest the latter aim is more likely. Sri Lanka have been hit with the major loss of captain Tillakaratne Dilshan due to a broken thumb which will means Lahiru Thirimanne has to be drafted in for his debut and Kumar Sangakkara, reluctantly to say the least, resumes the leadership. Dilshan is so pivotal to Sri Lanka - as he showed with his 193 at Lord's - that it will take a mighty effort for the tourists to overcome his absence.
While the batting line-up has twice competed impressively in the first innings - which makes their capitulation for 82 even more surprising - they have not looked like bowling England out twice. The one chance they had to embarrass the hosts came on the opening day at Lord's with England 22 for 3 but the attack couldn't maintain the pressure. Although Dilshan's near double put pressure back on the home side a victory push always looked a little distant.
England, though, were some way off their best at Lord's and will want to put that right over the next five days. Such high standards have been set that the collective disappointment of the bowling last week caught many by surprise. James Anderson's return will bring a senior figure back to the attack, but this is an important week for Stuart Broad.
As it is for Andrew Strauss. Not that he should be feeling any undue pressure right now, but he was twice lbw to Chanaka Welegedara at Lord's and, given he only plays one format these days, won't want to endure too many lean series. Also, a scoreline anything less than 2-0 will be a missed opportunity for England.
A word, too, on the venue. Not much more than a decade ago the area now home to the Rose Bowl was home to grazing animals. It's been an impressive transformation into a fine venue. Unsurprisingly there were teething problems in the early years, but Rod Bransgrove is right to be proud of what has been achieved. Hampshire deserve a Test match fitting of the occasion.
Form guide(Most recent first)
Sri Lanka DLDDD
Watch out for...
James Anderson was sorely missed at Lord's as England's tall pace bowlers struggled to match his consistency. Ideally Anderson would have had at least a short run out before returning from a side strain, but is confident that he is fully recovered. With the likelihood of some cloud cover around Anderson could enjoy conditions on the south coast and reaffirm why he is worthy of consideration as the second-best pace bowler in the world after Dale Steyn.
Kumar Sangakkara has plenty on his plate. He hasn't exactly jumped feet first back into the captaincy after his departure from the role little more than two months ago. There is often more to these sorts of situations than straight cricket decisions, with outside influences common in Sri Lankan cricket. The other issue for Sangakkara is his form. He hasn't been able to improve on a poor record in England during this series, although 153 against Essex will have been a timely boost. In the absence of Dilshan he must lead from the front with the bat.
Barring any last-minute problems Anderson will slot back into England's side at the expense of Steven Finn who took wickets at Lord's but was expensive. After Kevin Pietersen's 72 in the second innings last week Strauss is the one batsman without a significant contribution in the series.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Chris Tremlett, 11 James Anderson
Lahriu Thirimanne is the favourite to replace Dilshan at the top of the order after his hundred against Essex, but Sri Lanka's other problem is how to take 20 wickets. Farveez Maharoof has been ineffective at No. 7 and with victory a must Sri Lanka could be better served by either Thisara Perera's extra pace or Suraj Randiv's offspin
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tharanga Paranavitana, 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt) , 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Dilhara Fernando, 11 Chanaka Welegedara
Pitch and conditions
For a long time the Rose Bowl had a reputation as being a nightmare for batsmen, but the pitches have since bedded down and often provide plenty of runs. Sadly, it doesn't look like this Test will escape interference from the weather with Friday currently having the worst forecast.
Stats and trivia
"We are determined to make it 2-0 and finish the series off. There's been some good cricket played by both sides amongst the showers we've had but we want to build on what we've done so far."
"Whether you lose 1-0 or 2-0 you've still lost a series, but if we scrap and perform the way we can, we have opportunity to tie series. We have to show no fear and be as positive as we can but at the same time execute all we've spoken about properly on the field."
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