Sri Lanka in England, 2013-14 May 12, 2014

Rejigged tour can help Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka may have their best chance of winning a Test series in England for many years. A schedule more sympathetic to their needs, an opposition in transitional mode and confidence gained from success in Bangladesh has given Sri Lanka an optimism not always shared by some of their predecessors.

The English leg of their tour begins on Tuesday. Sri Lanka will take on an Essex side including Alastair Cook in a 50-over game in Chelmsford, with further warm-up matches scheduled against Kent and Sussex ahead of the international fixtures which start in a week.

But while Sri Lanka's record in England is not encouraging - they have not won a Test in England since 2006 and have never won a series of more than one match in the country - circumstances are a bit different this time. On both their 2006 and 2011 tours Sri Lanka played the Test section of the tour ahead of the limited-overs section.

This time, however, they will have had a far greater chance to acclimatise to conditions. They will have been in Ireland or England for more than a month before the first Test and will have the opportunity to play their stronger suit - the limited-overs games - ahead of the Test series.

They also find an opposition lacking some of the pillars of its success in recent years - the likes of Andy Flower, Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott - and having just enjoyed a memorable double-success in Bangladesh, where they followed victory in the Asia Cup by winning the World T20.

"We have started training a bit earlier than usual because we know the English conditions are not going to be easy for us," Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, said on Monday. "If we can adapt ourselves as soon as possible, I am pretty sure the team will come good. The conditions and the weather are the main challenge we face.

"We are not trying to be complacent against an England team having made all of those decisions. Yes, they might be missing star players like Kevin Pietersen, but they still have enough potential to beat any team on any day, especially playing under English conditions. They will be very hard to beat.

"You know what happened in Bangladesh: they beat us quite easily in the sub-continent conditions, so you cannot be complacent and just have to go hard at them."

"The confidence levels are very high," the coach, Marvan Atapattu agreed. "This team comes with confidence and success."

Certainly if the batsmen play as straight as the tour management did when deflecting questions about Paul Farbrace's departure, they should fare well. Mathews did not believe the suggestion that Farbrace, who resigned the Sri Lankan coaching role to take the assistant coach's job with England just weeks before the tour, had any team secrets to impart and dismissed the idea that any of his squad resented the decision.

"We respect his decision," Mathews said. "He is a good coach and was part of our success. He was with us for a short period of time, not a very long period of time, but in those few months, he was pretty good. Everyone has his own choices. He has made his choice and we wish him all the very best.

"When it comes to an international cricket team, there are no secrets. You have so many videos of all the players, of the support staff as well. We had guys like Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga come into the team, but you cannot really hide them from playing international cricket.

"Everyone knows a little bit about the opposition, so I don't really think he has all the inside information."

But Sri Lanka hope that the appointment of Chris Adams, the former Surrey coach, might provide an insight into England's players and tactics. Adams joined up with the team on Monday and will spend the rest of the tour with them. Kumar Sangakkara will also join up with the squad on Wednesday or Thursday, having completed his short stint with Durham.

"Chris Adams is to give me the information I need to know, about venues and players, during this tour," Atapattu explained. "We will try to pick his brains to improve our game and lend our support to the players. Yes, we will try to get inside information from him."

Sri Lanka's record in English conditions probably still leaves them as underdogs going into the Test series. But Peter Moores and Co face a far from straightforward test at the start of England's new era.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments