Warm-up opposition not good enough - Karunaratne
The bowling Sri Lanka faced in practice games ahead of the Test series was of modest quality, opener Dimuth Karunaratne has said. Karunaratne made scores of 8, 16 not out, 0 and 100 not out in three-day first-class matches against Essex and Leicestershire, but felt those outings had been inadequate preparation for the challenge of facing England's attack.
"I don't think the century in that warm-up game was very satisfying," Karunaratne told the Island. "I don't think that kind of preparation will do any good ahead of a tough Test series. The oppositions we played were basically second-string teams. In our second warm-up game, there were just two fast bowlers and the rest were spinners. I wasn't too pleased after getting the hundred."
Though he has not made a significant score in the ongoing series, Karunaratne had been one of Sri Lanka's better batsmen of the past two years, hitting 1283 runs at an average of 38.88 across 2014 and 2015. He was especially impressive in similar conditions in New Zealand, where he averaged 42.12 after four Tests.
He said he would have preferred to play a Division One county side ahead of this series. Essex and Leicestershire are both in Division Two.
"During the practice game, of the two fast bowlers, the quickest guy bowled just four overs," Karunaratne said. "Some of the Division Two bowlers didn't ask many questions. When we play that kind of opposition and all of a sudden play James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the Test match, the gap is huge. We tend to make more mistakes and get out cheaply. When England come to Sri Lanka, they play our A team as warm-up."
Karunaratne made more significant contributions during the 2014 Test series in England, in which he had scores of 38, 16, 28 and 45, as part of an opening partnership which saw Sri Lanka past the 10th over in three out of four innings. The opening partnership has been less steady on this tour, but did survive 16.2 overs in Sri Lanka's most-recent innings, in which the team went on to make 475.
"When we won the Test series here in 2014, Kaushal Silva and I had batted for more than ten overs and we had seen off the new ball threat," Karunaratne said. "That made things easier for the guys who followed. This time, I got out in the third or fourth over of the first three innings and then it's hard on rest of the batsmen. We needed to rotate the strike and put the loose balls away and be active always. When runs are on the board, the opposition's mentality also changes, and they aren't too attacking. We can hear them talking that runs are being scored and the need to cover certain areas."
Karunaratne has been out to the series' leading wicket-taker, James Anderson, twice in his four innings so far. He reported having faced a sharper England spearhead.
"Anderson this time around is a changed bowler from what we had seen of him in the past," Karunaratne said. "He has good rhythm. Last time he was only concentrating on swinging the ball. This time what we have found is that he has got the length spot on too. He was bowling lot of inswing for me last time, but this time not a single inswinger. He hits the deck hard and when he does that with the swing he creates, the ball cuts away too quickly. That makes it even tougher."
Conditions at Lord's are likely to be the most comfortable for batsmen so far in the series, with temperatures forecast to be above 20 degrees right through the Test and a flatter surface expected. The visitors will likely need to add to the six Sri Lankan names already up on the Lord's batting honours board if they are to be competitive in the third match.
"Last time I had got a start at Lord's, but didn't know how to build the innings," Karunaratne said. "The Lord's wicket has lot of runs. It's a batting paradise. The swing will be less and the sun will be out.
"Mahela Jayawardene had a chat with me and he gave me some options. Then Kumar Sangakkara called me and stressed the need to remain positive. His tips are useful as he has played here a lot. Sanath Jayasuriya too had a chat with me. Currently I take guard on the middle stump. He suggested that I should maybe move between middle and off stump as that allows me to stop playing outside the body. He had done the same thing during his playing days. These are very useful tips."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando