Sri Lanka in England 2014 June 17, 2014

Bad news to ponder as Sri Lanka head north


Sri Lanka will take heart from the draw at Lord's, Angelo Mathews said at the end of the match. But as the team heads to chilly, unfamiliar Headingley they have enough bad news to temper their mood.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Prasanna Jayawardene's finger injury is more serious than first believed, and he will be unavailable. Meanwhile, Suranga Lakmal's hamstring tear continues to keep him out of the side, even though it was expected to have healed in time for the second Test. It is something of a Sri Lankan trait to be optimistic, but sunny diagnoses have worked against them here. Perhaps Sri Lanka would do well to pick up another team doctor in Yorkshire.

The injuries open up selection quandaries for Mathews and Sri Lanka, but their options will be weighed against their intentions for the match. Sri Lanka have a shot at glory in Leeds. If they win the Test, they will have won their first ever Test series in England (not including the one-off result at the Oval in 1998). But Mathews has so far been unmoved by shots at glory in Tests. The fear of losing has had more influence on Sri Lanka's long-format cricket in recent years.

A loss at Headingley will not have quite undone Sri Lanka's work in the limited-overs series, but it might dampen the tour, and reinforce the notion they remain long-format lightweights. A drawn series, meanwhile, would suit Sri Lanka fine.

England had the better of the running at Lord's and may again at Headingley, but details are eroded more quickly in the public memory than the scoreline. During the first Test Mahela Jayawardene also hinted at the team's frustration of having only two Tests in England, while India, who have a poorer recent record in the country, get five. Sri Lanka partly have their own board to blame for the scheduling, but nevertheless, a squared series might be an effective means of highlighting injustices in the Test calendar.

But Sri Lanka will also know a draw at Headingley is far from a foregone thing. Of the 14 most recent Tests there, stretching back to 1997, 13 games have yielded results. Of those 13, the teams have been separated by an innings five times. Only on two occasions has a game been decided by a slimmer margin than five wickets or 100 runs. These numbers - and a cloudy forecast - suggest Sri Lanka might do well to adopt all-out aggression, because a draw seems even less likely than a victory.

Sri Lanka's fast bowlers are now accustomed to vitriol from outspoken former players, whenever they tour overseas, but Shaminda Eranga's fourth day spell at Lord's was perhaps the best of the match until James Anderson's reverse-swing laced burst on Monday. Having regained his line and rhythm after a wayward first innings, Eranga will again be tasked with leading the pace attack. Which quick men he should have in support, is what Sri Lanka must ponder.

Nuwan Pradeep was penetrative on the first day at Lord's and despite a familiar dip in speed in the second innings, he remained economical enough to warrant selection in Leeds. But Nuwan Kulasekara's place in the side will be under more intense scrutiny.

There is no doubt Kulasekara can move the ball further than his teammates, but he does so at such a gentle pace, he posed few troubles for a green England top order. He would, on the surface, appear the safe choice for Sri Lanka. If the conditions do not allow for movement, he is supposed to be the man to lock up one end. Though he travelled at 4.33 runs an over in the second innings, Mathews spoke highly of his efforts after the match.

"Nuwan Kulasekara bowled pretty well, along with Eranga," he said. "They were hitting the right lines and lengths and bowling with a lot of pace. That was encouraging."

Dhammika Prasad, who bowls with considerably better pace than Kulasekara, and also had a successful outing in Northampton, may be in prime contention to make the XI on Friday. Sri Lanka's worry with Prasad, is that he is something of a wild card: intense and intimidating on some days, but fodder for good players of pace on others. With an unpredictable Pradeep already in the attack, Prasad may seem a risky choice. Sri Lanka also have left-armer Chanaka Welegedara in their ranks, but it is unclear whether he has regained full pace following a spate of lengthy injuries.

There are also vulnerabilities in the batting that must be addressed, but given the men on tour, Sri Lanka almost have no option than to go with the expected top seven. Dimuth Karunaratne keeps getting in and getting out. Lahiru Thirimanne combusts every time James Anderson lines him up. And though Dinesh Chandimal - who will likely take the gloves - still averages over 50 in Tests, his horror run in limited-overs cricket will take some getting over.

Headingley, with its reputation for cloudy days and vicious swing, seems an unlikely place for a Sri Lanka win. If the visitors are to give themselves some chance, they cannot afford to tactical missteps before the match has even begun.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2014, 15:37 GMT

    England are taking the momentum to be honest to tomorrow's game , this is the start of the summer,so obviously they wouldn't want to lose there first game thats why they went for the safe option and gave us to bat the next day and still nearly closed out a win.SL top order is doing a pretty good job,but the lower order needs to chip in a lot more! Heavens sake bring in Prasad! and drop kulasekera, and also chandimal has done well away from SL so i hope he does well tomorrow and he may give prasanna a run for his money in a place in the side which is good! Personally i think england have a very good chance of winning at Headingley,but cricket is a funny game so you never know best of luck to the SL team!

  • Samodh on June 19, 2014, 13:42 GMT

    PJ's brisk keeping will be missed by SL but I think this is a blessing in disguise. Apparently, Chandimal is a better bat. If Sri Lanka need to win this game, they need to go at England all guns blazing. I'd have normally liked SL to have a 5 bowler attack at Leeds with Herath, Welegedara, Prasad, Eranga and Pradeep. But coz the batting looks fragile, it's best Welegedara doesn't play. And keeping in mind that almost all recent SL victories in any format had been BOWLING VICTORIES [T20 WC, Asia Cup, that famous Test Win against PAK in UAE, 2/3 ODI wins against England], Im going to pick, 1. Dimuth K [looked fluent at Lords] 2. Kaushal Silva 3. Sanga 4. Mahela 5. Angelo 6. Chandimal 7. Kithuruwan Vthanage/Dilruwan Perera [latter if there's some spin on the track] 8. Dhammika Prasad 9. Herath 10. Shaminda Eranga 11. Nuwan Pradeep

  • John on June 18, 2014, 22:20 GMT

    The fact is that at Lord's at the end of every day England was in control. Sri Lanka had a few good sessions, but by the close of play each day England was back in the driver's seat. That was on a slow, easy pitch, quite well suited to the Sri Lankans. They barely hung on for a draw.

    If the Headingly wicket is a little faster and firmer and if the conditions favour swing and seam bowling, SL is going to be hoping for rain to cut down the playing time. Sanga, Mahela and Mathews are excellent batsmen, but the rest will struggle. The SL seamers are good, hard-working cricketers, but not as experienced as the England seamers. Herath is by far the best spinner and the one advantage SL has over England, but his effectiveness will be limited by the conditions.

    Unless it rains a lot, England must be strong favourites to take this match.

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2014, 18:56 GMT

    My Sri lankan 11 for next match 1.Thirimanna 2. Silva 3. Sangakkara 4. Mahela 5. Chandimal 6. Mathews 7. Kithruwan. 8. Herath 9. Welagedara 10. Eranga 11. Pradeep

  • Kanishka on June 18, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    @ Prabhakar Muthukrishnan ur right but it's the same with every international side playing away from home in alien conditions there are no international sides with a great allround bowling attack the last one was probably the English attack a couple of years ago with Anderson,Broad, Swann etc. Pakistan maybe the closest but they are highly unpredictable.

  • Upul on June 18, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    Mathews really said this? "Nuwan Kulasekara bowled pretty well, along with Eranga," "They were hitting the right lines and lengths and bowling with a lot of pace. That was encouraging." He's either been misquoted or he should've gone to specsavers because there's no way that the word 'pace' should be associated with Kulasekera, unless the words 'lack of' are in the same sentence.

    Maybe he meant Nuwan Pradeep, not Nuwan Kulasekera.

    If SL don't want to win then go for the defensive option and pick Kulasekara. By doing so, they'll be making the loss far more likely in my opinion. It's not like Kula is economical in away Tests either. Passenger! Besides, you don't pick one of your 4-man attack based on economy. He needs to have the ability to take wickets. If Kula with his 8 /9 Tests abroad for only 4 wickets at a ridiculous average & strike rate is what they want to go ahead with, instead of playing Prasad, then so be it. They don't deserve to win. It'll be a decision made out of fear.

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2014, 17:56 GMT

    Whatever combination they may try the Sri Lankans cannot win outside the subcontinent because of their weak bowling attack. Without a quality spinner like Grame Swann, the English side's bowling too looks weak. However, if the conditions were to favor swing and seam, then the Sri Lankans had it.

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2014, 16:23 GMT

    Chandimal should open with Kausal, Kithruwan should bat at no 7 and Kula out prasad or chamara bring... then we balance...ha ha lets spoil the english soup at Headingle...

  • chandima on June 18, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    Before any team changes i think our coaches should change the mind set of the players, specially the senior players not to be negative and defend. But to go attack and win. Last match was played with so negative approach by our players.

  • Lalindra on June 18, 2014, 14:40 GMT

    My team for Headigley Test

    Kaushal Silva (Wk) Dimuth Karunaratne Mahela Jayawardene Kumar Sangakkara Angelo Mathews (c) Lahiru Thirimanne/Kithruwan Vithanage Rangana Herath Shaminda Eranga Chanaka Welagedara Suranga Lakmal(Subject to fitness)/Dilruwan Perera Dammika Prasad/Nuwan Pradeep

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