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The Preview by Andrew Fidel Fernando
May 30, 2014
England favourites but series unpredictable
Match factsSaturday, May 31, 2014
Eighty-one runs was the difference between the teams in the first match of the series. The margins have expanded alarmingly since, to 157 runs, then 10 wickets and 227 balls. They might not be numbers that suggest a compelling series, but Sri Lanka's tilt at England has held interest, if only because of the unpredictability of the results.
Sri Lanka arrived favourites at the first match, on the back of a T20 international win and an unbeaten 2014 in ODIs, then faltered dramatically. England appeared to hold the aces at an overcast Chester-le-Street, but were shot out for 99. Then the hosts outskittled the skittlers at Old Trafford, to almost everyone's surprise. Even the weather forecasts have been way off base, with heavy rains failing to materialise in the second and third matches. Conditions have been no indicator of results. Sri Lanka have at various times seemed well-adjusted and at sea in the cold and the damp.
Lord's is expected to be rain-free and somewhat less chilly on Saturday, with temperatures expected to peak in the high teens. Sri Lanka appear to be the more vulnerable side at present, but they have traditionally done well at the venue, and when the sun shines. These are all just facts. They may not mean a thing.
One trend that will have been pored over by analyst and coaches in the Sri Lanka camp, is their batsmen's frailty against Chris Jordan's hit-the-deck pace. Jordan has not relied on great movement nor even a tight line and length. He has instead created trouble by generating good lift, and by having batsmen play too early or too late. His ambling approach to the crease explodes abruptly into an energetic delivery swing, and though many bowling coaches will see this as a flaw needing correction, it appears his pace has not been easy for Sri Lanka batsmen to judge.
If Sri Lanka fail at Lord's, they will have comfortably lost a series. It will mark the end of their remarkable 2014 run. England, meanwhile, will hope it begins their resurgence.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Jordan may be taking most wickets, but there is no doubting the influence James Anderson's pinpoint opening spell exerted on the last match, when he claimed both openers and conceded only 10 runs from his seven overs. Skilful, probing and relentless, he is exactly the kind of fast bowler Sri Lanka's batsmen don't like. They failed in their plan to play him out safely in Manchester, and even if they alter their outlook for Lord's, Anderson is not an easy bowler to gain control of.
Mahela Jayawardene was among those who attempted to bat slow and long in Manchester, but he changed so much about his normally free-flowing game, he tangled himself up against an innocuous James Tredwell offbreak. Tough situations often coax him to his best, and as he has set the 2015 World Cup as a target, a regular flow of good scores will serve his confidence well.
England will have learned little about their batsmen from the brief Manchester chase and will likely be unchanged.
England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook (capt.), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Joe Root, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Chris Jordan, 9 James Tredwell, 10 James Anderson, 11 Harry Gurney
Angelo Mathews suggested Lahiru Thirimanne will be given a longer run at opener after the last match, but they may be tempted to bring in Kusal Perera into the side, displacing Thirimanne down the order. The visitors will hope to play two spinners, but have Thisara Perera in reserve if the conditions are more suited to quick bowling.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene 5. Dinesh Chandimal, 6. Angelo Mathews (capt.), 7. Ashan Priyanjan, 8. Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Rangana Herath/Thisara Perera, 11. Lasith Malinga
Pitch and conditionsThe recent T20 double header saw the wicket go very slow for the second 40 overs and several Championship matches have seen some low first-innings totals but Lord's wickets for internationals are generally excellent. The weather forecast is dry.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"Sometimes you can get on one of those roles on a wicket where you lose two or three quickly and it's difficult to turn the tide. That's probably been the case in the last two games."
"We had a bad day, we are looking forward to Lord's. The boys are practising hard. We just want to forget what happened in the last match."
The Old Trafford collapse is quickly behind Sri Lanka according to Lahiru Thirimanne
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernandoFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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