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 have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 15, 2014, 11:07 GMT

    upul tharanga should be in SL team. he is on of the great player who didn't get the enough opprtunities. Mr Sanath please do justice for him. don,t axe him.............

  • Prashan on May 14, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    Gagg is definitely an Indian as always expected playing down Sri Lanka. No surprise at all. Sri Lanka have a history of success in England and this time preparation is far better than last time.

  • Dimuthu on May 14, 2014, 7:59 GMT

    Gagg - I think you're right, in that "on paper" SL looks quite average. But then again, on paper, does SL look anything like a Twenty20 champion team? Let alone making the finals 3 out of the most recent 4 times. No massive hitters, some ageing soft touch batsmen, a few medium pacers with Malinga being the only real 'firepower' on paper. The beauty of cricket is how little 'on paper' counts for :) I won't be surprised if England win the series. However, if you look at the last time Sri Lanka toured England it was a 1-0 loss (which should have been 0-0 were it not for that ridiculous Cardiff collapse). SL beat South Africa in Durban later that year too. Don't count the team out just yet

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    congratulation for both team for give us interesting series win or lose ,,,,love to see sri lankans play

  • Randolph on May 13, 2014, 22:10 GMT

    I would have thought that SL's best chance was because England was battered into oblivion by Australia. SL - you're welcome.

  • Garry on May 13, 2014, 21:21 GMT

    As a neutral I can't see Sri Lanka evern getting close to England in the test series, I would be surprised if England don't win by an innings in them all. The Sri Lanka team on paper looks very average.

  • Pinidiya on May 13, 2014, 12:13 GMT

    It is interesting to note ONLY 4 players in the history of SL Cricket, had managed to score more than 300 Runs Vs Eng in England in ODIs:

    Jayawardene: 698 Runs/15 ODIs, Sangakkara: 619 Runs/15 ODIs, Jayasuriya: 538 Runs/13 ODIs, Upul Tharanga: 347 Runs/05 ODIs.

    Upul Tharanga has the Highest Batting Average: 69.40 with Two Centuries made at Lord's and Leeds. He had contributed massively to the famous 5-0 whitewash achieved by SL. Unfortunately, this 29 yr lad has no place in SL cricket, despite scoring 5242 Runs for SL, (Batting Average of 34.03) with 13 Centuries against Every Test Playing nation in the world. In my view, SL will never live up to potential outside subcontinent, as long as the funny system of squad selections, ultimately based on a politician's approval :)

  • udendra on May 13, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    Sri Lanka has it tough this time too. Because it's early-summer unlike for the Indians who arrive later. Will be heartening to see them win or draw the series.

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2014, 5:00 GMT

    It Is too early to predict anything about srilankan players,the previous matches in bangaladesh has given some confidence them to play well in England,if they bowl well and given good batting then there is a opportunity to claim a victory,we hope srilanka will permorme upto there ability in england tour,

  • Parthiban on May 13, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    It is difficult to imagine that SL has any chance in the test series. But it was equally difficult to think that anyone would leave out pietersen out of their team.

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