England tricky start to new era
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Start time 1100 local (1000 GMT)
The talk of England's regeneration and a new era now has real credence. England's one-day side contained familiar personnel to those who competed over the winter but the Test side has gaping holes to fill; holes that were blown open by Australia and have plunged English cricket to its lowest ebb since 1999. England will hope that from their winter of discontent can be made a glorious summer.
An upturn in results and the appeal of performances are necessary for a variety of reasons but especially salient for Alastair Cook. He could not have anticipated having to lead such a rebuilding process when he marshalled a series win in India and an Ashes triumph but his captaincy will now come under more scrutiny than ever. Widely accepted as not being a natural leader of men, Cook could face louder questions over his suitability at the helm of the new era if his England do not produce results. Cook also needs to rediscover his form with the bat and has Sam Robson to forge a new opening partnership with - the fourth selection as opener since Andrew Strauss retired.
England's batting was on a steady decline before the blow out in Australia and building up big totals will be high on the priority list for Peter Moores. A vastly different batting line-up will play against Sri Lanka with novices Robson, Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali in the top six and Ian Bell moving up a place to No. 4.
There is less upheaval in the bowling attack that will still be led by James Anderson and Stuart Broad with Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett adding the pace and aggression that England wanted from Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin over the winter. Losing a matchwinning spinner in Graeme Swann is the one major concern but he didn't have a doosra; Moeen Ali purportedly does.
Asian opponents at home should be the plumb draw for the start of a new era but with the first Tests of the summer shifted back from May to June, the advantage has been eroded slightly. Sri Lanka are well settled in the UK, have confidence and form from their successful one-day series and are set to enjoy better weather over the next two weeks.
Sri Lanka will also have gained motivation from the animosity that brewed during the one-day series, chiefly by the mankading at Edgbaston, and will sense the chance of an upset against the new-look England. They certainly hold the edge in the spin department, Rangana Herath having ran through England on their last tour of Sri Lanka, and veterans are Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara hoping to guide their side to success on their final tour to the UK.
England: LLLLL (most recent first)
Sri Lanka: DWLWD
In the spotlight
England have had an issue in replacing Andrew Strauss at the top of the order. Nick Compton, Joe Root and Michael Carberry have all had their chance but now Sam Robson has been picked to try and form a new partnership with Alastair Cook. Robson has been sounded out for some time as a Test opener but his early-season form hasn't been outstanding.
If Sri Lanka are to find success in the series, their bowling attack must deliver. Shaminda Eranga has made a handy start to his Test career, with 38 wickets in 11 Tests. His sharp seamers have showed much promise and he can solidify that potential into a strong performance against England, their green batting order will have plenty of problems.
England are set to field three new caps with Robson becoming the latest opening partner for Cook, Moeen playing as a spinning allrounder and Jordan adding fire to the bowling attack. Their only decision is between Plunkett and Chris Woakes as the fourth seamer.
England: 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Sam Robson, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Joe Root, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Matt Prior (wkt), 8 Liam Plunkett/Chris Woakes, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
It is all change for Sri Lanka from the one-day series with five Test specialists flying over, including a new opening partnership. Prasanna Jayawardene - the third wicketkeeper in the squad - will take the gloves; Herath now becomes the frontline spinner in the side, Sri Lanka have the option to play two; Dhammika Prasad and Shaminda Eranga are seamers with a big role to play.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kaushal Silva, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wkt), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Dhammika Prasad, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Shaminda Eranga
Pitch and conditions
Sri Lanka's prayers seem to have been answered with the weather forecast dry and sunny with warm temperatures and hot for the first two days. Lord's always produces an excellent wicket.
Stats and trivia
- England have won 18, drawn three and lost three of their last 24 home Test series.
- Of captains to lead their team in at least seven Tests in England, only Brian Close (six wins in seven) has a higher win percentage than Cook (five wins in seven).
- Kumar Sangakkara averages 30.58 in England, his lowest in any country. He has one century in 18 innings in England.
- The entire England squad have only scored 137 more runs than Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene combined
"I think both sides will play a hard brand of cricket. We have a responsibility to play it the right way, as there will be a lot of people watching us, a lot of kids, but they want us to play it hard too."
Alastair Cook on the anticipated atmosphere of the series.
"We had to work really hard in the ODIs and fight against the weather. The start of the summer is going to be pretty difficult for any team playing in England.."
Angelo Mathews on the challenge of the great British weather.
Follow Alex Winter on Twitter @winter_cricket© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.