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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2014, 14:56 GMT

    Here is my comment before it's too late (before the game progress any further). I see a BIG problem with SL selection panel. Especially promoting Chandimal before he had his feet placed firmly and now promoting Thirimanna as the VC of the team (pretty much securing a spot in the 11 when they are seriously out of form). Chandimal did really well in the fast bouncy tracks in ENG 92011) and Aus, SA afterwards and he should be given preference when we play them. Thirimanna is good in slow subcontinent pitches and if SLC want to promote him in the team they should have done that in those situations. i would have played Chandimal as a batsman in both games or replace thirmanna with kitruwan. He seems fearless, just like chandimals last tour of ENG.

  • Lalith on June 20, 2014, 12:23 GMT

    I think this is good. Luckily Mathiew did not win the Toss otherwise SL will be bowling first and trying to save the match in the 4th and 5th day. I

  • Chintaka on June 20, 2014, 9:48 GMT

    @ModernUmpiresPlz, you have no idea about what test cricket is, Thrimanne is a pure and classic test batsmen


    For SL needs to get min 350, then see what else can be made at that time

    For Eng needs to get to lunch with SL 2/3 down, any more is a bonus

  • Xiong on June 20, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    @Gloryof96 If Thirimanne is Sri Lanka's only possible test batsman for the future they're in serious trouble. Fortunately there are many better test batsmen in Sri Lanka, they just aren't getting picked like they should be. Thirimanne is not a test batsman, he's terrible. Shorter formats no problems. Test cricket is a different game.

  • Chintaka on June 20, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    Thirimanne and Karunarathe MUST play, they are our future, you don't drop players because some armchair selectors here don't like what they see

    Prasanna is out and the possible replacement will be between Chandimal and Vitharage. I doubt the selectors will drop Kulesekera but if he is, the possible replacement would be Prasad unless Lakmal is stiff iinjured

  • Chintaka on June 20, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    If anyone thinks that Mattews is a defensive Captain, think again .....

    SL were positive even after Eng got 575/9(d), and that is why SL got so close, after the morning session of the 5th day, all 3 results were still possible

    Yes Eng bowled SL out for 453 but the SL top order fired, but the Eng top order failed and it was the tail that bailed out Eng, how many times can Eng expect the tail to bail out Eng?

  • shashwata on June 20, 2014, 7:26 GMT

    Agree with most people here that England should play an unchanged squad here. Personally, I do want to shuffle up the batting order a bit, but maybe not for this game. Despite the fact that Ballance got a ton at 3 and Root got a double at 5, I'm certain England will be better off switching their places in the near future.

    The biggest concern right now is the openers. Should Robson not get at least a fifty this game, he's sure to lose his place to Carbs (or maybe someone else) at Trent Bridge next month. Cook last got a ton at this very ground. I wish I could amply express how desperately I've wanted him to get one for a LONG while now. Do it now Chef.

    Jimmy/Broady should be fine if the pitch behaves even 70% like the classic Headingley wickets.I agree with @landl47 that Jordan & Plunkett ought to be used a bit more to attack than to contain.

    Hope it's not a wicket like last year's vs NZ. There's no one close to our Swanny to bail the seamers out this time.

    All power & luck England.

  • chandima on June 20, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    I prefer if Kulasekara and either Dimuth or Thirimanna to be removed from today's match and Prasad and Dilruwan to be included. Because Dimuth and Thirimanna are not in good form. Specially Thirimanna. Dilruwan will add value by increasing the bowling options. Whereas Kulasekara is not generating enough pace to test level so Dammika can be a handy option. If Chandimal could step down the captaincy in world t20, why cant Thirimanna to do it to win a match.

    However i still feel that SL are having the lack of focus on getting the tailenders quickly. Malinga is clearly missing here. I do not think Mendis as an option since he is picking quite easily by Eng players. If vass can develop the bowling yorkers at regular intervals by a bowler like pradeep it will be a much better resource not only for this match but also for the future. importantly pradeep got a bit of reverse swing as well. Therefore developing him will be more useful to take the wickets of tailenders quickly.

  • Chintaka on June 20, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    How ironic, the last time SL toured Eng during a FIFA WC (2006), SL drew 1-1 in the test series beat Eng in Leeds to win the ODI's 5-0 and on the 5th ODI day, Eng were dumped by Portugal, this time 3-2 ODI's to SL and Eng almost but dumped by Uruguay, so lets see what the result would be at Leeds (again!!)!

    I am surprised that some people think Eng bowled well, apart from the last 2 hours of a 5 day game. Eng failed to take 20 wickets but the so called "village green bowlers" did far better as an inexperienced attack in that cold climate

    Yes I do expect SL to get beaten at Leeds, but don't make excuses if you don't beat SL.

    On the overall view of the series V SL and simple deductions would make Ind favorites for that series

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    Basically SL is happy winning the ODIs. England will be happy if they win the Tests. So it's a win-win.

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