England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley June 19, 2014

England crave tangible reward

Play 04:41
'Best yet to come from Bell'

Match facts

Thursday, June 20
Start time 1100 local (1000 GMT)

Big Picture

For all that has gone before, the result of the Headingley Test may determine how this tour is remembered. Win or draw and Sri Lanka, with both limited-overs series already packed in the coffin, can depart as unquestionably the side in the ascendant; lose and they will feel a wonderful opportunity has been squandered. England would take victory as confirmation they are Doing The Right Thing in the format that means the most to them.

Like a party that takes ages to get going then explodes into a Saturnalian debauch long after midnight, Lord's left us rubbing our heads and asking when we can do it all again. The chances of a similar finish in Leeds are small but, equally, the build-up might not be as restrained, either. Headingley is a ground where England have previously trusted in pace (they left Graeme Swann out against South Africa in 2012) but is also viewed as the most capricious in the country (Swann took a ten-wicket haul in the win over New Zealand last year).

Look up, not down, they say and with another sunny forecast, at least to begin with, Sri Lanka will hope their batsmen, led by an imperious Kumar Sangakkara, can keep England at bay again, before Shaminda Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep attempt to probe for weaknesses. They have never played a Test in Yorkshire, however, and there will be peculiarities to adjust to. Should the game drift at all on Saturday and Sunday, Sri Lanka would be wise to keep their focus on the pitch, lest the antics in the Western Terrace throw them irrevocably off kilter.

The result in the first Test at least meant England broke their run of successive defeats. The most pertinent question is whether failing to snatch victory at the last will deflate Alastair Cook and his side, after a quietly impressive display. Cook's response to perceived criticism suggests he is still not completely at ease - even more so, since his captaincy at Lord's showed rare innovation and might have given him the confidence to laugh off commentary box needle. A Test win, and series victory, is desirable but another enterprising display coupled with a continued sense of progress would also be cause for optimism.

Almost as important, at least from a local perspective, is the opportunity to reassert Yorkshire as the heartland of English cricket. Hosting international matches is fundamentally important to Yorkshire's finances and the club have outlined an extensive redevelopment of Headingley to maintain their place in the England calendar. With three of their own likely to be in the XI, Yorkies have reason to be the northern approximate of cheerful.

Form guide

England: DLLLL (most recent first)
Sri Lanka: DDWLW

In the spotlight

Even before being hooked on Warne's barbs, the scrutiny on Alastair Cook was becoming sharper. Without a Test century since the corresponding fixture against New Zealand last year - a run of 22 innings - Cook is becoming the subject of a debate that turned into a background hum of distraction for many of his predecessors. Constructing a winning team in his own image will be much easier if he can resume the sort of scoring that made him England's leading Test century-maker at the age of 27.

Another left-handed opener in search of a three-figure score is Sri Lanka's Dimuth Karunaratne. While Kaushal Silva battened down the hatches to thwart England's new-ball bowlers at Lord's, Karunaratne's bat shimmered briefly in the light before becoming a sword for him to fall on. An attractive strokemaker who is adept at getting starts, Karunaratne needs something more substantial to nail his place; four fifties and an average of 29.90 from his 12 Tests hints at a talent as yet unfulfilled.

Teams news

England are expected to be unchanged, with Liam Plunkett's unflagging flogging of the Lord's pavement likely to rewarded by a more enjoyable workout on his home ground. Chris Woakes remains the other bowler in the squad.

England: 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Sam Robson, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Joe Root, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 James Anderson

Prasanna Jayawardene has returned to Sri Lanka because of a finger injury, which will likely open the door for Dinesh Chandimal to return and take the gloves. Dhammika Prasad could press for a place in the bowling attack if Nuwan Kulasekara's contributions are considered too lightweight.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kaushal Silva, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Dinesh Chandimal (wkt), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara/Dhammika Prasad, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Shaminda Eranga, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

Pitch and conditions

The surface again looked to have a layer of grass left on - though that didn't count for much at Lord's. It is expected to be a touch quicker and seam friendly but that should not prevent runs from flowing when the sun is out.

Stats and trivia

  • England have won only one of their last four Tests in Leeds (against New Zealand), with defeats to Australia and South Africa.

  • This will be Sri Lanka's first Test at Headingley but they have won their previous two ODIs at the ground, in 2011 and 2006.

  • Cook needs 23 runs to go past Geoffrey Boycott and 90 to go past Kevin Pietersen, fifth and fourth on England's Test run-scorers list respectively.

  • Only 33 runs separate Mahela Jayawardene, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kumar Sangakkara, who lie sixth to eighth in the all-time Test runscorers list. All three are in action this week.


    "Last week couldn't have gone any better for us. Yes, we didn't quite get over the line but what we did I was incredibly proud of and if we play that way in a Test match every time I am captain I will be incredibly proud."
    Alastair Cook was encouraged by England's manner despite drawing at Lord's

    "It's going to be a fresh start for all of us. We'll take that. We showed our character in the first game, but we've got to play our best cricket to beat them."
    Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka's captain, is looking to the next challenge

    Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick