Kumar Sangakkara has labelled England the best all-round side "in any conditions", and expects them to challenge Sri Lanka in the three-Test series in November.
Although England will begin the ODI series as favourites - they are the top-ranked team, while Sri Lanka are eighth - Sangakkara said Sri Lanka will "have to be on top of their game" in Tests, in order to defeat England. This, despite Sri Lanka having trounced South Africa 2-0 in July this year, and Australia 3-0 in 2016.
Sangakkara had observed the England team at close quarters during their recently concluded summer, having commentated on Pakistan and India's tours to England. He had also played three seasons of county cricket for Surrey, and has played with or against several of the England players on tour.
"It's going to be a tough series for Sri Lanka against an England side, who I think will be well adapted to any conditions we play them under," Sangakkara told ESPNcricinfo. "I think they are the best all-round side in world cricket without a doubt, in any conditions. They have allrounders down to no. 10 - they bat very deep. They have a settled batting line-up, which they haven't changed. They have strokemakers and batsmen who can knuckle down. Since Alastair Cook has left, they'll have a new opening combination, so whoever comes in there, Sri Lanka can target."
Spin is a frequent shortcoming of visiting Test sides, with Sri Lanka's batsmen often able to neutralise the opposition's spin options much better than the opposition can negotiate Sri Lanka's spin options. According to Sangakkara, however, England are capable of being potent on Sri Lanka's dusty tracks.
"They have very good spinners in Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali," he said. "Rashid in Sri Lankan conditions will become a very potent threat. They have bowlers who know have to reverse swing as well, so they're bringing a very, very strong unit. They have the ability to adapt, because if they want to play three spinners, they can play three spinners. They can play an extra seamer if they want, without really compromising on their batting. Sri Lanka will have to be on the top of their game. A lot will depend on Rangana Herath and our batsmen's ability to post a good first-innings total."
Opener Rory Burns is set to make his Test debut in this series while middle-order batsman Ollie Pope, who had played two Tests against India, is likely to play his first Test away from home. Sangakkara has played alongside both of them, at Surrey.
"Burns has performed consistently over the last five years for Surrey and finally he's getting a look into the international side - I think it should have happened a couple of years ago but it's good that he's getting that opportunity while he's in form. Pope has really blossomed with responsibility of being a key player for Surrey in the middle order. He's a very attacking player, likes to score runs quickly, and is very good with spin. He sweeps and reverse sweeps well and these are all things you look at in young players to identify whether they're good enough to play at the next level.
"But Sri Lanka is not the easiest place to tour, so I don't think they should really go there trying to think that this is going to be a make or break tour for Burns and Pope. Just go there with an open mind, enjoy the tour, learn from it and keep growing. I think they have great potential to have long-term careers for England."