England and Sri Lanka will renew hostilities at Chester-Le-Street for the second of three Tests.
England got their new Test season off to the ideal start by delivering a crushing innings and 88 run victory at a grey and gloomy Headingley in Leeds last week.
Can the English keep their hopes of a whitewash alive or will Sri Lanka provide us with the first real shock of the 2016/17 Test season? Let's take a look!
England vs Sri Lanka | Friday 27 May – Tuesday 31 May | Chester-Le-Street | Durham
England 2/7 | Draw 7/2 | Sri Lanka 12/1
Trevor Bayliss would have been happy enough with his charges’ performance last week in Leeds, however, he’ll know better than anyone that his Lions have far more to offer. Had it not been for a heroic performance from Jonny Bairstow (140) and a nuggety 86 from Alex Hales in the first innings, the result of the first Test could have made for drastically different reading.
The English were in heaps of trouble when the two came together at the wicket, at which point they reeling at 83-5 before the end of the 32nd over. Shaminda Heranga and debutant Dasun Shanaka had accounted for most of the top order, and were looking at getting the lower order at the crease before the close of play on day one. Bairstow came out and played some cracking shots, racing to 140 off just 183 balls. He never really looked uncomfortable against a fired-up Sri Lankan attack. The same, however, could not be said for Hales. The Nottinghamshire batsman was routinely beaten outside the off stump as he spluttered to 86 before throwing his wicket away as he looked to attack Rangana Herath.
Looking ahead, Bayliss will be looking for a lot more from the likes of Alistair Cook, Nick Compton, Joe Root and James Vince. The four only managed a combined first innings score of 25 with Compton and Root both failing to register a run. Compton will likely be feeling the pressure more than more than anyone else in the top order. The Middlesex number three has endured a torrid county season to date, only managing to score 100 runs in five matches – simply not good enough for someone aspiring to lock down a place as England’s number three.
While their performance with the bat left a lot to be desired, the English turned on the style with ball in hand in overcast conditions in Leeds. James Anderson in particular – who helped himself to a 10-wicket haul – will be relishing the opportunity of bowling at a mentally decimated Sri Lankan batting outfit at one of England’s great seam fortresses. Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes, and Steven Finn put in solid shifts themselves without really setting the world alight.
I’m not sure whether or not Bayliss will make any changes to his squad heading to Chester-Le-Street. One feels he’ll give Compton the remainder of this series to prove himself before swinging the axe. I would like to see Jake Ball earn his first cap at some point, perhaps in the third Test if England have already wrapped up the series. Unfortunately, Bayliss’ options are quite limited as he’s only named twelve players in his Test squad.
In the build-up to the first Test, Sanath Jayasuriya went as far to say that this Sri Lankan bowling outfit could go on to be the best in the world. While a quite a hefty statement, their bowling unit did show a lot of promise in the first innings.
Unfortunately for the islanders, that’s where the positives end. Their batting was shambolic, and aside from a maiden half-century from Kusal Mendis, there was very little to write home about. I mentioned it in my preview for the first Test, and I’ll mention it again, Sri Lankan cricket is going to need to fill the massive void left by Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. The latter currently plies his trade at Surrey in County Cricket’s Division One. He’s scored 545 runs in six matches at an average 54.50. How Graham Ford would love to be able to call on his services moving forward.
If the islanders are to have any chance of winning the next match, they must put in an almost flawless performance with the ball. This will be considerably more difficult considering the fact that Dushmantha Chameera has been ruled out of the remainder of the after suffering a stress fracture in his lower back. Chameera’s injury comes just a week after Dhammika Prasad returned home after suffering a shoulder injury.
Ford will take a bit of heart following Dasun Shanaka’s dream debut in which he tore through the English top order early on day one to finish with figures of 46-3 after his 13 overs. Rangana Herath was his usual economical self and seemed to enjoy bowling a dry Headingley deck.
So where to now for Sri Lanka? Honestly, I don’t think that they should panic. They’re going through a bit of a transitional phase at the minute and probably could have done without facing an English side who have been on top of their game of late.
The Sri Lankans will do well to get anything out of this game. Chester-Le-Street is an absolute fortress for the English, who have never failed to win a Test match at the ground. This is probably owed to the fact that conditions suit their bowlers to a tee. Jamie Anderson will be raring to go following his 10-wicket haul at Leeds while Stuart Broad and Steven Finn will also look to get in on the act.
Local weather services are reporting cloudy conditions with a bit of rain set to fall on days four and five. The overhead conditions will suit the English seamers perfectly. Angelo Matthews and his men will do well to avoid another innings defeat here.
Verdict: England 2/7
The English – barring any miracles – should have absolutely no issues winning this game comfortably, even with a bit of rain set to fall on the final two days. In fact, at 2/7, you’re getting fantastic value here! Get on!
Value Bet: Kusal Mendis to top score in Sri Lanka’s first innings at 5/1
Mendis showed incredible mental fortitude to grind out his maiden Test half-century in awful conditions for a Sun-Continent batsman. He offers excellent value here at 5/1, and while I wouldn’t stake the rent money on it; it’s definitely worth a tickle!