If author Agatha Christie had been active a few decades later, she might have used Ajantha Mendis for inspiration. Once the poster-boy for mystery spin, the enigma of Ajantha has stretched far beyond his dexterous fingers and has consumed the narrative of his career. Is he a great bowler, or a mediocre one? Sometimes he is both in the same series. He played two matches against India. In one, he was tonked for 70 for no wicket in his seven overs. In the next, he almost won Sri Lanka the game, claiming four key (if expensive) wickets, on a turning track. There are doubts about whether he can be effective in Australia and New Zealand, but also theories on how he is a force against teams that have not played him much. The selectors will hope at least they will have decoded Ajantha by the end of the England series.
Few batsmen pack as much power into their shots, but despite the occasional rapid start Kusal has provided, he has been brittle in recent months. None of his last 12 innings have fetched 50, and of his five most recent knocks, two have been ducks, and two more were single-figure scores. Sri Lanka have given him so much rope because when he does make runs, they are high in impact. He will have another chance at the start of the series, and if his 56 from 74 balls in the warm-up match is anything to go by, perhaps he will tone down his aggression, in a bid to win a World Cup place.
A bits-and-pieces allrounder who plays with immense heart, even if he has limited ability, Jeevan has been thrown a lifeline, just as his career seemed to be on the wane. He has been in good form with his legspin, taking regular wickets in domestic cricket, but Sri Lanka will want more from him with the bat, as they look to strengthen their lower middle order for the World Cup. He is an excellent fielder, and a fine batsman against spin, but his performance against England's seamers may determine whether he earns a trip to New Zealand in January.
Seemingly the coming man of England's 50-over side, Hales is apparently already going. After just four starts alongside Alastair Cook at the top of the order, in which he scored an underwhelming 92 with a strike rate of 68.65, Hales has been eased aside in favour of Moeen Ali's greater all-round offering, though he should still get to stake his World Cup claim on the tour. A tall man with long "levers" - as England love to call his appendages - Hales is a sui generis hitter who really has no like-for-like rival and therefore seems secure in his squad place. But when his chance does arise, Hales needs to prove that his T20 heavy-artillery approach can be tailored to a longer format.
Dropped from the previous series against India, Bopara is on notice that his potential in an England shirt needs fulfilling. Frustratingly talented yet dozy in equal measure, he has failed to make himself indispensible over the course of 108 ODIs and was not in the XI for the only warm-up match England have managed to squeeze in around the bad weather. Cook knows what his Essex team-mate is capable of and it may be that England want to give Ben Stokes first crack at the No. 7 spot but, with plenty of allrounders to call upon and James Taylor offering the potential for fun-size fireworks as a specialist batsman, there is pressure on Bopara to prove he is worth a third World Cup shot.
Capable of bowling close to 90mph, a superb fielder and able to give the ball a thump, Jordan has the ingredients to make Mr Kipling rub his hands together in delight. Unfortunately, something appears to have gone slightly wrong in the baking process and Jordan's performances have become increasingly flaky in one-day cricket, where his habit of firing wides down the leg side is costly. He bowled five overs for 48 in England's otherwise comfortable win over Sri Lanka A on Friday and sent down 12 wides in his only appearance during the India series. He is relaxed about criticism of his run-up and grip on the ball but needs to focus on improving his end results if he isn't to be edged out by the left-armer Harry Gurney.