Sri Lanka in England 2014 May 19, 2014

Rising Sri Lanka continue to defy turbulence

Reputation and regeneration will again be key themes for Sri Lanka as they seek to build towards the 2015 World Cup
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On the eve of the first tour of the English summer, it would seem as if their opponents are from some far off cricketing galaxy.

Sri Lanka are so much that England are not, and vice versa. There are the contrasting philosophies to coaching: creativity subverts tradition in Sri Lanka but England's men are the better drilled, stronger, more organised. The visitors' team consists of one coach for each discipline, a strength and conditioning man and a temporary consultant - a bare bones unit by international standards and a backroom staff outsized by top counties.

In 2014, the teams could hardly have tracked more wildly disparate trajectories. Since one abysmal day in Sharjah in January, Sri Lanka have boomed almost irresistibly, taking one regional title and a global one, despite shambolic exchanges between the players and the administration. In 17 limited-overs outings this year, they have failed only once - incidentally at England's hands, on a soggy Chittagong night. England's form, has been firmly at the other end of the spectrum.

Having worked up to their first England international with a pair of bruising victories over county teams, Sri Lanka's challenge will be to stay on their high, while depriving England of clear air and endorphins. Maintain the mood in both camps; crush England in the limited-overs leg and they may gain enough ground to head into their less-favoured Test format with an unfamiliar mental edge.

That the traditional tour schedule has been upended to play Tests in June clearly suits Sri Lanka. Though the ODIs may feature the kind of swing and seam that has undone them in the past, Sri Lanka will feel they are objectively the better limited-overs side and more than capable of victory even in uncomfortable conditions.

To that end, they have the services of one of the finest proponents of white-ball swing in the world, in Nuwan Kulasekara, as well as Lasith Malinga in ominous form. Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews provide capable support, and though the spin ranks want for Rangana Herath's experience, Sachithra Senanayake has excelled in his role as a middle-over strangler in the past six months.

The visitors are on shakier ground with the bat. There is experience at the top of the order in ODIs but around this core, younger men are still making their names. Kusal Perera will likely open alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan, but he will have bad memories of the Champions Trophy in England last year, when he produced a poor run that led to his exclusion in the next series. Dinesh Chandimal has a fine record in England but has just been relieved of his leadership roles following a year of mediocrity. Lahiru Thirimanne is a vastly improved batsman but he may not have the chance to come in as high up the order as he wishes.

The tour is an audition for Sri Lanka, not least for the interim head coach, Marvan Atapattu, who would move to the brink of locking down the permanent job if the team is successful. There is little doubt he is technically astute but to be Sri Lanka's head coach requires so much more than knowledge.

Beyond the man-management skills and tactical nous such a role requires, Atapattu will also have to form part of the buffer between the players and the whirling cesspool of administrative jockeying at home. Foreign coaches have long been preferred in Sri Lanka, in some part on the theory they are less susceptible to political pressures, and as the brother-in-law of a senior SLC official, Atapattu may have to work particularly hard to remain objective and effective.

On the field, fringe players will seek to prove they are viable choices for next year's World Cup campaign. This series is Sri Lanka's last ODI expedition outside Asia for the year and, way back in January, the coaching staff marked it out for a World Cup proving ground. Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya recently spoke of the importance of preparing fast-bowling allrounders for that tournament and Thisara, who had also had a mediocre Champions Trophy in England, would appear to be under most scrutiny.

In this collision of cricketing worlds, both teams do have one thing in common: it is a fresh start for England, and a season of change for Sri Lanka as well, both among the coaching staff and because the seniors have begun to bid their farewells to the game. They had been indifferent to upheaval during their Asian run and, if they can transpose that success to their England summer, Sri Lanka will have confirmed their place as a rising side, spurred by regeneration.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • KazukoOhtha on May 20, 2014, 20:28 GMT

    Why on earth the last over not given to Mathew? Scraped home I would say, instead of a good win. Any way the win is good reply to Farbrace.

  • dhanuhskaS on May 20, 2014, 17:53 GMT

    Oh... boy! There goes again........ within 10 balls !!! MDKJ Perera - 10 Runs-10 Bals for the 14th consecutive time on Fast-decks Keep gooooing.....again...and again... and again... even in T20 :))

  • trueSLfan2010 on May 20, 2014, 15:44 GMT

    It is hilarious to see some extremely WISE, know-everything type of posters like @Blade-Runner, get upset, when someone is talking about the reality;)) Hey... pal get real, didn't you see that, if not for Tharanga's damaged control inning of 24 Runs (Quarter Century) withstanding the hostile display of seam bowling!! SL could have even lost the ODI to Ireland, because our PERMANENT Gate-Opener Kusal, did his job perfectly in that occasion too... lasting just 4 balls to score "0" Keep going.. Keep cheering for the absurd at the cost of SL Cricket :))

  • trueSLfan2010 on May 20, 2014, 15:41 GMT

    It is hilarious to see some extremely WISE, know-everything type of posters like @Blade-Runner, get upset, when someone is talking about the reality;)) Hey... pal get real, didn't you see that, if not for Tharanga's damaged control inning of 24 Runs (Quarter Century) withstanding the hostile display of seam bowling!! SL could have even lost the ODI to Ireland, because our PERMANENT Gate-Opener Kusal, did his job perfectly in that occasion too... lasting just 4 balls to score "0" Keep going.. Keep cheering for the absurd at the cost of SL Cricket :))

  • Blade-Runner on May 20, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    @ Former_Player ; Your highly talented Upul Tharanga was clueless against Ireland a few days back. Enough said...

  • InternationalCricketFollower on May 20, 2014, 14:06 GMT

    There is no mention of kaushal silva. This bloke has a great track record in domestic one dayers and first class and looks pretty solid too! Need to give this guy some chances in the limited over games.

  • BlackHawk on May 20, 2014, 14:05 GMT

    Never, underestimate England. Especially in home conditions. Kusal's form is a worry but I suppose the only way he can improve is by playing in these conditions. If Mendis is included in the playing eleven then I can say for certain that SL wil be defeated quite easily - even the County players were scoring off his bowling.

  • Andrew-Silva on May 20, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    @CricketPissek: Established players worldwide, with long successful track-records, would never get AXED due to brief lean periods in their career! Because, that is common to any such player including, Sanga, Mahela, Dil, Tharanga etc. Selectors look at their most recent year's batting averages, which is the precise indication of their overall consistency at any point of their career! Since July 2012 to the day he was axed July 2013,Tharanga had played 20 ODIs-2 N/O, and accumulated 567 R at an Av of 31.5 on home soil & lively decks! Is this inconsistency for a player who had managed so many achievements right from the day he began his ODI career? He is the youngest & fastest to reach initial 1000 runs in SL.

    Tharanga is having a better career Batting Average (Av nearly 34), even better than Mahela or Jayasuriya! Why this young guy is not considered for ODI Squad despite having the BEST Av in Eng (Av 69.4)? Doesn't he deserve a place? Especially at a time looking for experience!

  • Andrew-Silva on May 20, 2014, 13:19 GMT

    Dear Andrew,

    "Sri Lanka have boomed almost irresistibly in 2014" THANKS to THE HEAVY LOAD PULLED by the 3 SENIOR Front-Oder Batsmen.!!! ALSO, LUCKILY all These ODIs WERE PLAYED in the Subcontinent or Middle-east decks! We are about to lose those 3 front-order experienced batsmen in the near future. They were the players who SHOULDERED & ABSORBED the early breakdown PRESSURE in numerous occasions! (since, Kusal opened the gate within the first 5 overs, 10 times in 17 innings that he opened outside Bang, since June 2013). Dil, Sanga or Jaya somehow managed to stabilize the dented ship and Mathews with the help of lower order guys like Kulasekara, Thisara, Sachithra turned many ODIs to a winning streak from a losing path! In fact, the bowlers have CONTRIBUTED MORE than Kusal, in batting! Is there any logic, trying to develop a mediocre player like Kusal, DUMPING the most valuable OPENER resource SL have?

    STRANGELY, THERE is NO Explanation for the ABSURD SELECTION of ODI SQUAD.....!

  • Blade-Runner on May 20, 2014, 12:36 GMT

    @ Crompton-Effect ; Giving a "chance" to Tharanga is a wrong way to begin an argument. We shouldn't give a "chance" to a guy who has got 150+ ODIs under his belt. He should come and perform from the get go whenever he gets the opportunity. IMO Tharanga hasn't improved even a bit over the years. In fact he has gone down a rung or two. Kusal is a very special 'n talented player. He has proven it by winning us many games during a very short period of time. I know that he's got some technical deficiencies. But who hasn't ? He's got a weak defensive technique (something can be fixed). In last few game, he got out while trying to defend unlike Tharanga who throws his bat at everything outside the off-stump. Once Kusal improved his techniques to counter the lateral movements of the ball, he will thrive in all conditions. So Kusal's selection is very much justified !!! :)

  • KazukoOhtha on May 20, 2014, 20:28 GMT

    Why on earth the last over not given to Mathew? Scraped home I would say, instead of a good win. Any way the win is good reply to Farbrace.

  • dhanuhskaS on May 20, 2014, 17:53 GMT

    Oh... boy! There goes again........ within 10 balls !!! MDKJ Perera - 10 Runs-10 Bals for the 14th consecutive time on Fast-decks Keep gooooing.....again...and again... and again... even in T20 :))

  • trueSLfan2010 on May 20, 2014, 15:44 GMT

    It is hilarious to see some extremely WISE, know-everything type of posters like @Blade-Runner, get upset, when someone is talking about the reality;)) Hey... pal get real, didn't you see that, if not for Tharanga's damaged control inning of 24 Runs (Quarter Century) withstanding the hostile display of seam bowling!! SL could have even lost the ODI to Ireland, because our PERMANENT Gate-Opener Kusal, did his job perfectly in that occasion too... lasting just 4 balls to score "0" Keep going.. Keep cheering for the absurd at the cost of SL Cricket :))

  • trueSLfan2010 on May 20, 2014, 15:41 GMT

    It is hilarious to see some extremely WISE, know-everything type of posters like @Blade-Runner, get upset, when someone is talking about the reality;)) Hey... pal get real, didn't you see that, if not for Tharanga's damaged control inning of 24 Runs (Quarter Century) withstanding the hostile display of seam bowling!! SL could have even lost the ODI to Ireland, because our PERMANENT Gate-Opener Kusal, did his job perfectly in that occasion too... lasting just 4 balls to score "0" Keep going.. Keep cheering for the absurd at the cost of SL Cricket :))

  • Blade-Runner on May 20, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    @ Former_Player ; Your highly talented Upul Tharanga was clueless against Ireland a few days back. Enough said...

  • InternationalCricketFollower on May 20, 2014, 14:06 GMT

    There is no mention of kaushal silva. This bloke has a great track record in domestic one dayers and first class and looks pretty solid too! Need to give this guy some chances in the limited over games.

  • BlackHawk on May 20, 2014, 14:05 GMT

    Never, underestimate England. Especially in home conditions. Kusal's form is a worry but I suppose the only way he can improve is by playing in these conditions. If Mendis is included in the playing eleven then I can say for certain that SL wil be defeated quite easily - even the County players were scoring off his bowling.

  • Andrew-Silva on May 20, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    @CricketPissek: Established players worldwide, with long successful track-records, would never get AXED due to brief lean periods in their career! Because, that is common to any such player including, Sanga, Mahela, Dil, Tharanga etc. Selectors look at their most recent year's batting averages, which is the precise indication of their overall consistency at any point of their career! Since July 2012 to the day he was axed July 2013,Tharanga had played 20 ODIs-2 N/O, and accumulated 567 R at an Av of 31.5 on home soil & lively decks! Is this inconsistency for a player who had managed so many achievements right from the day he began his ODI career? He is the youngest & fastest to reach initial 1000 runs in SL.

    Tharanga is having a better career Batting Average (Av nearly 34), even better than Mahela or Jayasuriya! Why this young guy is not considered for ODI Squad despite having the BEST Av in Eng (Av 69.4)? Doesn't he deserve a place? Especially at a time looking for experience!

  • Andrew-Silva on May 20, 2014, 13:19 GMT

    Dear Andrew,

    "Sri Lanka have boomed almost irresistibly in 2014" THANKS to THE HEAVY LOAD PULLED by the 3 SENIOR Front-Oder Batsmen.!!! ALSO, LUCKILY all These ODIs WERE PLAYED in the Subcontinent or Middle-east decks! We are about to lose those 3 front-order experienced batsmen in the near future. They were the players who SHOULDERED & ABSORBED the early breakdown PRESSURE in numerous occasions! (since, Kusal opened the gate within the first 5 overs, 10 times in 17 innings that he opened outside Bang, since June 2013). Dil, Sanga or Jaya somehow managed to stabilize the dented ship and Mathews with the help of lower order guys like Kulasekara, Thisara, Sachithra turned many ODIs to a winning streak from a losing path! In fact, the bowlers have CONTRIBUTED MORE than Kusal, in batting! Is there any logic, trying to develop a mediocre player like Kusal, DUMPING the most valuable OPENER resource SL have?

    STRANGELY, THERE is NO Explanation for the ABSURD SELECTION of ODI SQUAD.....!

  • Blade-Runner on May 20, 2014, 12:36 GMT

    @ Crompton-Effect ; Giving a "chance" to Tharanga is a wrong way to begin an argument. We shouldn't give a "chance" to a guy who has got 150+ ODIs under his belt. He should come and perform from the get go whenever he gets the opportunity. IMO Tharanga hasn't improved even a bit over the years. In fact he has gone down a rung or two. Kusal is a very special 'n talented player. He has proven it by winning us many games during a very short period of time. I know that he's got some technical deficiencies. But who hasn't ? He's got a weak defensive technique (something can be fixed). In last few game, he got out while trying to defend unlike Tharanga who throws his bat at everything outside the off-stump. Once Kusal improved his techniques to counter the lateral movements of the ball, he will thrive in all conditions. So Kusal's selection is very much justified !!! :)

  • CricketPissek on May 20, 2014, 12:29 GMT

    @Crompton-Effect - although I agree Tharanga is one of our greatest ever ODI openers, you have to look at the time he was dropped. After his amazing 174* in WI, he scored 7, 6, 11, 43, 3, 5. A string of very low scores and a 43 just wasn't good enough for the selectors. They have the thankless task of trying to mix youth with experience. Kusal has amazing potential, he just needs discipline. They may try him out in the middle order like they did in Australia, but I think the best time to attack English bowling is at the start. A lot of the English bowlers rely on confidence a LOT. Just look at how quickly they got demotivated in Australia and how it affected all their performances. SL needs to be ruthless like that.

  • CricketPissek on May 20, 2014, 12:27 GMT

    @priceless1 - I think you've had enough responses for me not to grab my pitchfork and torch :) yours was quite a silly comment to make unless you've analysed Kula's bowling as closely as SL fans who have watched every international game he has played. His last few overs in the World T20 were out of this world. He has been working on his death bowling very hard over the past couple of years and he's perfected those off side yorkers. His early over banana swing balls are unbelievable. Just watch the youtube clip of his work in Brisbane from 2012/13 if you get a chance.

  • trueSLfan2010 on May 20, 2014, 11:24 GMT

    You are wrong Andrew, I would like to point out that Kusal Perera was NEVER DROPPED from the ODI Squad, since the utter FAILURE at Champions Trophy in England last year..!!! He was included in the immediately NEXT tour of WI in July 2013 and Vs South Africa in the home series in July 2013 and repeatedly failed.! This is the record:

    2 Run - 4 Balls v India - Port of Spain - 11 Jul 2013 - ODI # 3388 / 9 Runs - 19 Balls v South Africa - Colombo (RPS) - 31 Jul 2013 - ODI # 3401

    Since Then, 17 Runs from 6 ODI Innings, Average 2.9 on seaming fast-decks & poor overall average of 14.2 from 21 Innings-without Bangladesh in ODIs Kusal Perera played in every single ODI since then, despite the constant failures! The question is, why do they eliminate an incomparable, valuable, experienced player like Tharanga (just 29 yrs), to make room for an unskilled opener like Kusal Perera in ODIS? What is the logic behind, keep SACRIFICING SL Cricket, to let a failure like him to make his name..???

  • EMINM on May 20, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    let Kithruwan open with Dilly. Thiri should bat at 3. followed by Chandi. Kusal should not be picked. he is not at all suited for these conditions. He will be dropped after this series if he fails. That should not be the case as he is an asset to SL.

  • Ellis on May 20, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    In the right conditions Kulasekera can be very difficult to play. He has long been a stalwart of the SL bowling team. He is a much better player all-round than he gets credit for as he he is not a glamorous member of the team. But, when the chips are down, he comes to the party. He perhaps lacks the pace to trouble top batsmen on Test batting wickets. To me, he is an essential member of the SL team in the shorter formats.

  • jb633 on May 20, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    Sri Lanka should win the game at a canter with this weak English side. The big worry is the lack of bowling options and SL will surely not falter against us again.

  • dunger.bob on May 20, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    There's no doubt Sri Lanka is one of the teams to beat in either of the short formats. It wouldn't surprise me all that much if they won the 50 over WC in Aus next year. They could park that trophy right next to their T20 one I guess.

    I've only ever see Kulasakerra in Australia so I don't know what he's like in England but if he bowls even half as well as he did down here, he'll be damn near unplayable in English conditions.

    Can England win this game? Sure,why not. It definitely won't be easy but they've got some good players too so it's not off the books.

  • Udendra on May 20, 2014, 6:38 GMT

    Hi priceless1, your comment is baseless. Do you know that he was once ranked the world's no. 1 ODI bowler? Have you seen him performing in AUS? Please be a bit more sensible when commenting.

  • on May 20, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    SL is in top form at the moment. But Test cricket in English conditions is a different game altogether. Barring a few matches, which notably had Murali, Sri Lankas have not excelled in these conditions. Techniques will be tested and the top order need to step up in order to face the new ball.

  • Tinybaba on May 20, 2014, 1:37 GMT

    Hello friends dont forget that Kula was once number one ranked ODI bowler in the world. So how can you say he isnt world class ? How do you judge the class of a player ? By his skin colour or physique ? ODI needs a good control and a suttle change of speed to fool the batter and with that a little bit of a swing early with new ball and reverse swing with old ball could spell disaster for any batsmen in the world. o Kula has all these hence dont under estimate this small guy. He has done it in the past and he will do it this time too.

  • on May 19, 2014, 21:32 GMT

    Chandimal has always done a lot better outside the subcontinent, where most Asian batsmen struggle, so to prove that he's 'back in form' he has to do well at home, funnily. Hopefully, taking the burden of captaincy away from him will help him do exactly that.

    Kulasekara is one of the best swing bowlers in the world, his record and ranking proves that, and definitely underrated. He can swing it both ways.

  • on May 19, 2014, 19:21 GMT

    All the pundits, all the gurus. Nothing will alter the game. SL are a form side. England are trying hard to gain the support and confidence of their supporters. Weather is the only thing that can alter the result. SL on form should show England how it is done. We will know soon enough.

  • on May 19, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    In ODI cricket, Kula is world class. No doubts. Also he has a away seaming delivery.

  • Rocketman1 on May 19, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    @priceless1, Not that ranks really count for anything there have been several times he was ranked no.1 in ODI's as well as being in the top 10 in the format. If everyone knew what to expect from him then he wouldn't have so many wickets to his name.

    Chandimal seems to have found some form after being relieved of the captaincy. Matthews, Thirimanne, and Chandimal seem to be a reliable package in the middle of late. Kusal needs to fire or even drop down the order and come in for quick fire cameos.

  • on May 19, 2014, 17:13 GMT

    @priceless1 Yes, I guess that's why he is the only seam bowler in the the top 10 T20I bowler ranking. Where are all the so-called 'world-class' seamers there? Being the only seamer in those rankings, I think he is very much a world class bowler indeed...

  • priceless1 on May 19, 2014, 16:25 GMT

    "they have the services of one of the finest proponents of white-ball swing in the world" . Kula is not yet world class, he has to learn how to bowl out swingers to become a real threat for the batsmen , at the moment he just one dimensional ,every one knows what to expect from him at the beginning

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  • priceless1 on May 19, 2014, 16:25 GMT

    "they have the services of one of the finest proponents of white-ball swing in the world" . Kula is not yet world class, he has to learn how to bowl out swingers to become a real threat for the batsmen , at the moment he just one dimensional ,every one knows what to expect from him at the beginning

  • on May 19, 2014, 17:13 GMT

    @priceless1 Yes, I guess that's why he is the only seam bowler in the the top 10 T20I bowler ranking. Where are all the so-called 'world-class' seamers there? Being the only seamer in those rankings, I think he is very much a world class bowler indeed...

  • Rocketman1 on May 19, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    @priceless1, Not that ranks really count for anything there have been several times he was ranked no.1 in ODI's as well as being in the top 10 in the format. If everyone knew what to expect from him then he wouldn't have so many wickets to his name.

    Chandimal seems to have found some form after being relieved of the captaincy. Matthews, Thirimanne, and Chandimal seem to be a reliable package in the middle of late. Kusal needs to fire or even drop down the order and come in for quick fire cameos.

  • on May 19, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    In ODI cricket, Kula is world class. No doubts. Also he has a away seaming delivery.

  • on May 19, 2014, 19:21 GMT

    All the pundits, all the gurus. Nothing will alter the game. SL are a form side. England are trying hard to gain the support and confidence of their supporters. Weather is the only thing that can alter the result. SL on form should show England how it is done. We will know soon enough.

  • on May 19, 2014, 21:32 GMT

    Chandimal has always done a lot better outside the subcontinent, where most Asian batsmen struggle, so to prove that he's 'back in form' he has to do well at home, funnily. Hopefully, taking the burden of captaincy away from him will help him do exactly that.

    Kulasekara is one of the best swing bowlers in the world, his record and ranking proves that, and definitely underrated. He can swing it both ways.

  • Tinybaba on May 20, 2014, 1:37 GMT

    Hello friends dont forget that Kula was once number one ranked ODI bowler in the world. So how can you say he isnt world class ? How do you judge the class of a player ? By his skin colour or physique ? ODI needs a good control and a suttle change of speed to fool the batter and with that a little bit of a swing early with new ball and reverse swing with old ball could spell disaster for any batsmen in the world. o Kula has all these hence dont under estimate this small guy. He has done it in the past and he will do it this time too.

  • on May 20, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    SL is in top form at the moment. But Test cricket in English conditions is a different game altogether. Barring a few matches, which notably had Murali, Sri Lankas have not excelled in these conditions. Techniques will be tested and the top order need to step up in order to face the new ball.

  • Udendra on May 20, 2014, 6:38 GMT

    Hi priceless1, your comment is baseless. Do you know that he was once ranked the world's no. 1 ODI bowler? Have you seen him performing in AUS? Please be a bit more sensible when commenting.

  • dunger.bob on May 20, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    There's no doubt Sri Lanka is one of the teams to beat in either of the short formats. It wouldn't surprise me all that much if they won the 50 over WC in Aus next year. They could park that trophy right next to their T20 one I guess.

    I've only ever see Kulasakerra in Australia so I don't know what he's like in England but if he bowls even half as well as he did down here, he'll be damn near unplayable in English conditions.

    Can England win this game? Sure,why not. It definitely won't be easy but they've got some good players too so it's not off the books.