Murali's best home venue, but Sri Lanka's worst
England's recent ODI series victory over Sri Lanka was a surprise, but they'll still be the underdogs for the three-Test contest, which gets underway on Saturday. England have a good record in Tests against Sri Lanka, with eight wins and five losses in the 18 matches they have played so far. In Sri Lanka, though, both teams have won three Tests each.
|Record||Sri Lanka won||England won||Drawn|
|In Sri Lanka||6||5||19|
The first Test of the series will be played at Kandy's Asgiriya Stadium, the only home venue where Sri Lanka have lost more matches than they have won (six wins, nine defeats). And of Sri Lanka's six victories, five have come against Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh in recent years. The venue has witnessed some close encounters, including England's three-wicket win in 2001.
The ground, though, is Muttiah Muralitharan's favourite home venue - he has 108 wickets at an average of 16.06, and five more over the next five days will make him the leading wicket-taker in Tests. Murali is his side's leading bowler against England as well, with 93 wickets at 19.74 apiece.
Among the Sri Lanka batsmen, Mahela Jayawardene has the most runs against England, at an impressive average of 52.71, which goes up to 66.22 at home. However, Sri Lanka will be without the services of Marvan Atapattu, who retired from international cricket after the Test series in Australia, and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has been dropped from the squad for the first Test.
Apart from Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood, England's frontline batsmen for the series haven't played a Test in Sri Lanka. Their leading run-scorers in Sri Lanka are two left-handers - Marcus Trescothick and Graeme Thorpe. Paul Collingwood has had a poor run in Sri Lanka - 89 runs in four innings - but he is the team's best batsman in Tests played in the subcontinent (excluding Bangladesh).
The bowlers in the squad are equally new to Sri Lankan conditions, with only James Anderson and Matthew Hoggard having played a Test each in the country. England's leading wicket-taker in the subcontinent (excluding Bangladesh) in the last ten years is the retired Ashley Giles, with 51 wickets, followed by Andrew Flintoff, who is also missing from the touring party.
The team winning the toss has a slight advantage in Kandy, with nine wins and six losses.
|Won the toss||9||6||5|
|Won the toss and batting first||5||4||4|
|Won the toss and fielding first||4||2||1|
England's fast bowlers will be encouraged with the numbers in Kandy, though - pace has accounted for 197 wickets at an average of 28.36.