After their Test series humiliation against Pakistan in the UAE, several question marks will hang over England when they step out for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle. You can watch the series on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 from 26 March and catch up with all the latest cricket news with weekly show ICC Cricket.
Fail to address the following five areas and England’s Test renaissance will once again flounder on a dusty wicket far from home.
England’s batting order from four to six had a cataclysmic UAE tour. They may as well have passed on their go and ushered in number seven Matt Prior. Eoin Morgan – the man burdened with batting hopes so high he probably needs oxygen – has been axed to be replaced by Ravi Bopara or Samit Patel, but if Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell fail again the series, and possibly their place in the team, will be lost.
Andrew Strauss’ form
The captain’s place isn’t under threat, after all he’s led England to the top of the world rankings which, considering the state of English cricket in the 90s, should secure his spot until 2338. But Strauss endured a tough tour of the UAE, leaving his indefatigable opening partner Alastair Cook to score the runs. If he hits bad form as well it’ll spell doom.
Surviving the spin
The wickets in Sri Lanka are likely to turn, possibly with more zip than the sluggish UAE pitches where England stuttered so painfully against Pakistan’s spinners. The decision review system has changed the spinning landscape – players can no longer take a big stride and expect to be safe from an lbw (we’re looking at you Pietersen). Take a leaf out of Matt Prior’s book, move your feet and use the bat.
Keep the bowling fresh
England’s bowling just gets better and better. James Anderson and Stuart Broad were consistently brilliant in the UAE and Steven Finn has the potential to be the best England quick since Fred Trueman. Add to that tasty bowling broth the spin twins of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar and you have an attack for all conditions. They just need to keep it up.
Targeting the Sri Lankan big guns
Sri Lanka’s batting woes are almost an inverse of England’s. Their middle order players – Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera – are their steely core. Find a way of neutralising them and England will be on the road to victory.
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