|England and Sri Lanka will get the Test season underway when they clash in the first of three matches at Headingley.|
England and Sri Lanka will get the 2016/17 Test Cricket season underway with a three-match series starting at Headingley this Thursday.
England come into the series as heavy favourites following and outstanding showing in 2015/16 which saw them reclaim the Ashes as well as handing South Africa a home defeat. Sri Lanka on the other hand have only managed a single win (against a weak West Indies side) in their last five series. Can the Islanders shock the English in Leeds later on this week? Let's find out!
To Win Match
England 9/20 | Draw 22/10 | Sri Lanka 10/1
English cricket is at an incredibly important juncture at the minute. Their Test squad as well as the limited overs’ teams are both performing at levels which seem to suggest they could become the next big thing in the world game.
Their Test squad in particular looks as though it could go on to have yet another dream summer. The spine of the team that performed so admirably last season has been retained with James Vince and Jake Ball earning their maiden Test call-ups following some magnificent performances on the county circuit.
Vince has enjoyed a strong start to the county season with Hampshire, already bagging 275 runs at just a shade under 40. That run includes a magnificent 119 against a Yorkshire attack comprised of the likes of Adil Rashid, Ryan Sidebottom and Liam Plunkett. He will likely come straight into the side following James Taylor’s forced retirement due to a heart condition. Vince, while uncapped at Test level, has performed admirably for England in limited overs cricket; earning himself the man of the series in the T20s against Pakistan toward the end of last year.
Alex Hales and Alistair Cook look set to open the batting with Nick Compton, Joe Root, Vince, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad rounding off a terrifying top and middle order. Barring any dramatic collapses, these guys should have very little trouble producing the goods against a Sri Lankan attack who simply haven't performed well enough in recent years.
While the Sri Lankans are tipped struggled with the ball, the English will have no such trouble at Headingley where there should be plenty of swing on offer. How well the Sri Lankan batsmen deal with the likes of Broad, Anderson and Steven Finn remains to be seen. Personally, I think that these three alone will tear through the Islanders’ top and middle order with minimal fuss, especially if overhead conditions prove conducive to swing.
The Sri Lankans are on for a hiding to nothing here and it’s reflected in the betting. At 10/1, nobody’s really giving them a chance, and for good reason too. Mind you, England will write the Islanders off at their own peril. Nobody gave the Sri Lankans a hope in hell in the build-up to the 1996 World Cup and they only went and won it.
That, however, was a very different looking group of players. Chaminda Vaas, Aravinda de Silva, Marvan Atapattu, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya were all fierce competitors and would go on to become some of the planet's best cricketers when they lifted cricket’s most coveted prize in Lahore.
Nowadays they have to make do with the likes of Lahiru Thirimanne, Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep and Niroshan Dickwella – all great players in their own right, but simply lacking that something special that separates good players from the greats. The Asians are going to be relying heavily on the experience Angelo Mattherws, Dinesh Chandimal and Rangana Herath to get them across the line at Leeds.
The nation has seemingly struggled to deal with the loss of star pair Mahela Jayewardene and Kumar Sangakkara late last year. The two dug Sri Lanka out of numerous holes over the years and turned matches on their heads in the face of almost certain defeat. This new squad lacks the sort of X-Factor that these two seemed to possess in abundance.
To make matters worse for Graham Ford, Dhammika Prasad won’t be available for selection for the Headingley Test following an injury he picked up playing in a warm-up game against Essex earlier in the month. Other than that,
The side hasn’t done particularly well in either of the two warm-up matches with only Dimuth Karunaratne catching the eye with a second-innings century against Leicestershire. Matthews and Herath put in some good displays with the ball, but other than that, they looked largely uninspiring and flat. Their mediocrity was underlined when a schoolboy, Aaron Beard, on his Essex debut ripped through the visitor’s top order, claiming figures of 4-62 from 16 overs.
The Venue: Headingley
There’s going to be a fair bit of rain about if weather reports coming out of Leeds are to be believed. On top of the high possibility of rain over days two and three, all five days will be overcast and cold; making it increasingly difficult to bat if the seamers hit the right areas on the pitch.
Verdict: Draw 22/10
If the weather reports are to be believed, we’re in for a serious amount of rain on day two and three which could rule out the possibility of a result. I’d keep checking the weather reports coming out of Leeds in the days leading up to the game. If the forecast changes and the rain stays away, have big go on England at 9/20. However, if you absolutely must have a punt right now, the draw offers some decent value at 22/10.