Sri Lanka in England 2016 May 6, 2016

Mathews wants Sri Lanka to warm to the spirit of 2014

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We'll never forget 2014 series win - Mathews

"It's going to be cold for us," said Angelo Mathews as Sri Lanka shook off their jetlag at Lord's having arrived for their two-month tour in what has been presented in England as a mini-heatwave. It's a good job they didn't land last week when many cricket grounds in England had a covering of snow.

While a warm spring day in London remained a world away from Colombo, Mathews was delighted to have some sun on his back as his squad prepared for their opening tour match against Essex on Sunday. He'll have his fingers crossed it follows them to Leeds and Durham over the next few weeks.

There was a pre-series bullishness about Mathews. He knows his side are second favourites, but that has always been the case when they arrive in England. Two years ago they made history, clinching the series in dramatic style off the penultimate ball at Headingley when James Anderson fended Shaminda Eranga to short leg.

Mathews said it was a moment those involved "will cherish for the rest of our lives" and believes he has a group of "fearless" players capable of pulling off a repeat despite the retirement of middle-order powerhouses Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Both will be within touching distance of the touring side - Sangakkara playing for Surrey and Jayawardene working as a TV pundit - but Mathews said there was no point hankering for the past.

"It will be a challenge, no matter who you have in the team, against England in England. It's going to be cold for us, the main challenge will be the weather initially," he said. "We are preparing ourselves the best we can. Yes, we don't have Sanga and Mahela anymore but we have to move on, take up the challenge with who we have and I believe we can win if we play to our potential.

"Most of the players haven't played that much cricket in England but we have trained extremely hard. We have some fearless players in our team so that can be a plus point: enjoy your cricket and be aggressive."

Sri Lanka are, perhaps, not quite as inexperienced as is being suggested - even by the captain himself. Eleven of the 17-man squad were part of the 2014 Test series and all the bowlers who featured in the famous Headingley victory are here again, supplemented by the exciting Dushmantha Chameera who has the pace to put the hurry up England's batsmen.

Graham Ford, who left Surrey to return as Sri Lanka coach in January, echoed Mathews' sentiments that the side are not here to just make up the numbers although he acknowledged that there is also a bigger picture currently at play in Sri Lankan cricket in terms of looking to the future.

Shaminda Eranga (right) celebrates Sri Lanka's 2014 series victory © Getty Images

"We've lost some fantastic players and it's a young group that is coming here," he said. "First and foremost we are here to win the Test series, but it's also about growing a team so hopefully every single day we are making progress in the right direction. You always say you'd rather have a young team getting better rather than an old team staying the same.

"The England Test side is a very good unit indeed. They have played very good cricket and surprised some people by winning the Ashes convincingly and that sent out a message about how good a team they are and they played very well in South Africa. There is no better way to grow a young team than to play against a very good outfit."

In the absence of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, there will be even more onus on Mathews' returns as a batsman, alongside Dinesh Chandimal in the middle order and the other opening pair of Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne who have the experience of the 2014 tour under their belts.

So far, Mathews has been one of those players to flourish as a batsman with the responsibility of the captaincy. Overall he averages a tick over 50 in Test cricket, but that rises further to 61.76 as captain and includes his career-best 160 which came in the Headingley Test two years ago during a partnership with Rangana Herath which turned England ragged.

"Being in the hot seat there will always be pressure, I am trying my best not to think as a captain while batting," he said. "Headingley is one moment we will cherish for the rest of our lives, creating history in England, to be able to do that was fantastic. If we can repeat that it would be ideal. But that's in the past now."

Ford added: "It's been said that we won't start favourites, but it's about bat and ball and mental strength. I'm quietly confident that our boys will show some of that."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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