Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle March 25, 2012

No room for error in short series


Match facts

March 26-30, Galle
Start time 10.00am (0430GMT)

Big Picture

This is an odd tour - two Tests and nothing else - but one with great significance for both sides. It is Mahela Jayawardene's first Test series since returning to the captaincy and Sri Lanka are still searching for their first series win since Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement. England, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-0 whitewash by Pakistan in the UAE, which raised questions about their No. 1 ranking.

The brief nature of the series adds a certain lottery factor to the outcome, particularly given the recent history of Galle, the venue for the opening match. The previous Test at this ground, which Australia won by 125 runs, led to a warning over the pitch from the ICC. It remains to be seen what type of surface is produced this time, and whether the groundsman plays it safe (two Tests ago Chris Gayle slammed a triple hundred here), but one crazy session - as Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson produced last September - could be all that is needed to take the series.

Significant questions remain about England's batting on the subcontinent and, with a tour to India to come at the end of the year, they need to show that lessons have been absorbed from what happened against Pakistan. There is less mystery about Sri Lanka's attack but this England line-up are not in a position to take anyone lightly.

Neither, though, are Sri Lanka's batsmen likely to find it easy. While the reputation of England's batting slumped in the UAE that of the bowlers soared. James Anderson and Stuart Broad became a two-man pace attack with Monty Panesar making a resurgent comeback. When a slightly below-par Graeme Swann is the main concern for England, it's a sign of the strength on offer. And Steven Finn is unlikely to play.

The fact that the strongest element of either team - England's bowling and Sri Lanka's batting - will face-off against each other suggests this should be a tight contest.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LWLDL (most recent first)
England LLLWW

Watch out for...

Tillakaratne Dilshan was apparently treated pretty harshly as Sri Lanka captain but being freed of the burden was not the worst outcome for such an explosive player. There were signs in the one-day series against Australia that he was getting back to being that expressive, domineering batsman that can tear attacks apart. This series will give him a chance to translate that to Test cricket, although he will need to be at his best against England's strong new-ball attack. Don't rule out his bowling having an impact, either.

Monty Panesar flourished at the beginning of his second coming as an international cricketer with 14 wickets in two Tests against Pakistan. Now, all of a sudden, he has to deal with the expectation of success again. When England were last in Sri Lanka it marked the start of Panesar's problems in Test cricket, as he failed to have the impact needed from him. Now he is back as a wiser, sharper cricketer, and will be aiming to make it very difficult for the selectors to drop him.

Team news

Angelo Mathews was ruled out of the Test having initially been named in the squad, but Sri Lanka have batting cover available. Dinesh Chandimal will slot in at No. 6 and hand the wicketkeeping gloves back to Prasanna Jayawardene, who has recovered from hernia surgery. Mahela Jayawardene also confirmed that Lahiru Thirimanne will continue to open the batting, while it's a choice between Suranga Lakmal and Dhammika Prasad for the second seamer.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Lahiru Thirimanne, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Dinesh Chandimal, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Suraj Randiv, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Suranga Lakmal/Dhammika Prasad, 11 Chanaka Welegedera

Andrew Strauss said Stuart Broad was fully fit but the question of having enough bowling options was still being pondered. Samit Patel remains an option but it would be bad luck on Ravi Bopara who's side strain couldn't have come at a worse time.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Monty Panesar

Stats and trivia

  • There have been three Tests between these two teams at Galle, and the hosts have dominated them all. They won by an innings and 28 runs in 2001, where a wicket away from victory in 2003 and would have won in 2007 except for the rain.
  • The one current England player with fond memories of the ground is Alastair Cook, who scored 118 in 2007. Ravi Bopara, in the same match, had bagged a pair that stalled his Test career.
  • Chanaka Welegedara, who will take the new-ball for Sri Lanka, made his Test debut in the correspondent fixture.


"The history of the wicket is that it tends to deteriorate as the match goes on, but I expect it to be a pretty good Test wicket. You are looking for a good balance to your side to give you the best chance of taking 20 wickets."
Andrew Strauss doesn't expect another Galle minefield

"We have about six guys, who are genuine Test players, coming in to the squad. They have been training hard, and for the rest of the boys who have been touring, it's a good challenge switching back to the longer version."
Mahela Jayawardene is not concerned about switching back to the longer format

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Satish on March 26, 2012, 4:16 GMT

    A tired and underprepared SL against a fresh(Might be rusty?) and well prepared England.. But one would be very wrong to discount SL in home..

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    @ PrasadGunawardane - I don't think that SA is the worst no-sub continent team aggainst spinners ... It has to be Enland for now ... SA have majority of players who play well against spin ... I think this series would go 1-0 to SL

  • sanj on March 26, 2012, 2:49 GMT

    Why would you start a test series on a Monday? wouldn't thursday or friday better because of the weekend? not many people will come. no wonder cricket board is run on a loss

  • Johnathon on March 26, 2012, 0:17 GMT

    Sri Lanka's problem in the Test Level at the moment is not their batting, but their bowling. Here's to hoping some Sri Lankan quicks can fire this series

  • R on March 25, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    Much also depends on the attitude of the 2 andys as to whether they want to try and win this test match/series or try to avoid defeat.. And whether they make a selection howler first up like UAE and then end up chasing this 2 match series... It would be a bit much to ask Patel to come in and try and save the series having already gone 1 down... Even after UAE's batting debacle IR Bell's still current hopeless form and Bopeeps memories of a pair do not bode well so hopefully the much more combative Samit will get the nod...

  • ikmal on March 25, 2012, 23:43 GMT

    very happy with the selection of thrimanne and chandimal, would have liked silva to fit in somehow, question on the performance of the bowlers

  • John on March 25, 2012, 22:18 GMT

    @Spelele on (March 25 2012, 12:33 PM GMT) re "The only team to continuously pummel teams away from home is South Africa" - what a load of rubbish. The only team SA have beaten away from home by more than a solitary test was Bangladesh and in the last 10 years the only teams SA have beaten by more than one test in a series have been NZ , WI , Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.In their last 10 series SA have played 7 at home beating SL 2-1 Bang 2-0 WI 2-0 drawing vs Aus,Ind,Eng and losing 2-1 to Aus and away (3) Pak 0-0 , Ind 1-1 and Aus 2-1. Eng/SA series are always close encounters and I think the next series will be no exception. SA are better away vs SC teams than Eng but apart from that Eng have a better recent record vs most.

  • John on March 25, 2012, 22:18 GMT

    @landl47 on (March 25 2012, 13:40 PM GMT) Don't like the undercooked theory/excuses. They had played 2 warm up games and it wasn't as though they batted badly just in the 1st test. Also the bowlers found their rhythm ok. Our batsmen were rubbish and by and large lacked any sort of intent throughout the whole series. Flower was saying about lessons learned after every test defeat - it kind of wore thin in the end. They beat Pak in a format which both teams are inconsistent at and Pak probably took their foot of the gas a bit too. If we win , I'll give our team all the credit but we've not proven anything about improvement in warm up games or games in shorter formats.

  • Martin on March 25, 2012, 20:50 GMT

    Much depends on the attitude the SL authorities take towards their chances of winning. That will in turn dictate the pitches that are prepared. SL may take the view that England are vulnerable to spin and thus prepare rank turners - but as they found against Australia at Galle last time - that can backfire. Or, SL could take the view that heat and attrition will do for England - and prepare roads, hoping that England perish from heat and boredom. Neither way will work for Sri Lanka. First - England will play both Monty and Swann - and both are world class. Monty showed what he can do in UAE. Second - England are super-fit. Heat should not really be a factor. England will most definitely have learned from the debacle in UAE. They will be much better prepared. Cook, Strauss, Trott, KP, Bell, Prior, Patel, Swann, Broad, Anderson, Monty. Even though Bell should be dropped - he won't be. We think Patel will play; useful runs and overs. Be great to win the toss and bat! Come on England!

  • G on March 25, 2012, 17:56 GMT

    2nil to england,below average bowling attack for srilanka no m factor.hope batting will click for the lankans otherwise game over in3 to 4 days,

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