Wednesday, 25 May 2011

After The Ashes

While England have had a very tough winter with a glorious Ashes series followed quickly by a less than glorious World Cup, this summer though not so glamorous will be as tough, if not tougher.  Later on in the Summer England take on the World Cup winners, and currently Test Cricket’s number one team India.  Before that, and starting on Thursday, is the team England deposed from the number 3 spot, Sri Lanka.  This summer will go a long way to showing how good this England team really is.

Flintoff & Muralitharan walk off after Englands win at Edgebaston in 2006
Sri Lanka arrive on the back of that World Cup loss in Mumbai.  They have not won a series in England since Muralitharan spun them to glory in a one off test in August 1998.  Since then, England won a series in 2002 & tied the 2006 series, both of these were at home while they won in Sri Lanka in 2000/1.

Key to any Sri Lankan success will be how their bowlers perform.  Since the Wold Cup, Muralitharan has retired while Malinga has gone from the test arena.  Long touted as the heir to Muralitharan, this might be Ajanthan Mendis opportunity to step up.  More likely given the conditions, is the prospect that one of the Sri Lankan pace bowler will have to step up and fill the shows of Malinga, and of an earlier vintage Vaas.  Looking to be the leader of the pack will be Dilhara Fernando, he has the most experience and has at least played tests outside of Sri Lanka. Marahoof has also played test cricket outside of Sri Lanka.  However, overall the Sri lankan attack looks lightweight and inexperienced in English conditions.

If the Sri Lankans should be worried about their bowling attack, their batting line up is in good health.  Their batsman/wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara is currently rated the third best batsman in the world, just ahead of both Jonathan Trott (4) and Alistair Cook (5).  Mahela Jayawardena (8) & Thilan Samaraweera (10) are also rated in the top ten.  The only other country with three batsmen in the top ten is India.

Not that Sri Lanka are the only team with places to fill.  Paul Collingwood’s retirement leaves a space in the lower middle order.  First up to audition for that role is Eoin Morgan.  Morgan got his place by scoring 194 in the Lions tour mach against the Sri Lankans. He has so far played 6 tests (playing in all of the tests played last summer), averaging 30.00.  He surprisingly edged out Ravi Bopara – who has a slightly better record in test cricket despite a nightmare 2009 Ashes series.

The bowling berths are also still to be decided, with maybe 3 out of James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn making the team.  Finn might be the favourite to drop out despite being the top wicket taker in the Ashes series when he dropped out of the England team.

England start as favourites for this series, and must win to consolidate their credentials as the best test team in the world.  However Sri Lanka’s win in their warm up match against the Lions at the weekend has shown that despite looking like having a lightweight attack, Sri Lanka have got teeth.  However, if England’s batting line-up continues the form shown in Australia during the winter, there will be only one winner.

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