England vs Sri Lanka: Third Test Preview

We round off the Investec Series with the third and final Test between England and Sri Lanka.

England and Sri Lanka go head to head in the third and final Test of the Investec Series at Lord's. 

After two thumping defeats, Sri Lanka will look to salvage a bit of pride against England in the third and final Test.

Can Angelo Matthews and his not-so-merry band of underdogs provide us with the first big shock of the new Test season or will it be business as usual for Alastair Cook and co? Let’s take a look!

England vs Sri Lanka | Thursday 9 June - Monday 13 June | Lord's | England

To Win Match
England 1/4 | Draw 4/1 | Sri Lanka 12/1  

The English will be in buoyant mood heading into the third and final Test. Trevor Bayliss and his charges won the first two matches of the series comfortably – smashing the islanders by an innings and 88 runs at Leeds before cantering to a nine-wicket victory at Chester-le-Street.

Bayliss has stressed, despite winning the Investec Test Series with a game to spare, that his side are still a long way off the best teams in the world. He went on to say “We’ve a long way to go before we reach our best or a way of playing the game that I think everyone would be happy with. If we want to compete against Australia, who are the number one team at the moment, on a consistent basis there are areas we need to improve.”

He was no bout referring to his side’s inability to wrap up the second Test earlier as Sri Lanka fought back brilliantly to avoid the follow on. Jamie Anderson was brilliant, as he always is when the ball is swinging; however the rest of the attack struggled against a Sri Lankan outfit playing in almost alien conditions.

Stuart Broad and Steven Finn toiled away in that second innings without being too threatening while Chris Woakes continued his rise to potential Test stardom with another solid performance, accounting for the wickets of Dimuth Karunaratne and Suranga Lakmal. I am of the opinion – and I’m sure Bayliss would agree – that England are in dire need of a world class spinner.

While Moeen Ali is a solid option, he’s not a genuine wicket-taking threat. It may well be time to get Adil Rashid back into the squad. The leg-spinner has only played three Tests so far in the UAE against Pakistan. While he didn’t have the best series with the ball, it’s important to remember that the wickets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai were some of the flattest Test decks seen for many-a-year.

While the English have their woes in the bowling department, they remain one of the best batting sides in Test cricket. We’re all well aware of how good Cook is at the top of the order – you don’t simply score over 10 000 Test at an average of 46.49 without having a bit of quality about you. Alex Hales has also matured into a solid test opener, although he does still have a tendency to throw his hands at a delivery he should be leaving.

There are questions around whether or not Nick Compton will keep his place in the side at number three. Further down the order; Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Jame Vince and Moeen Ali provide solidity while Broad, Woakes and Finn can all hold the bat too.

With the series wrapped up, I’d like to see Bayliss hand Jake Ball his first Test cap. The medium pacer from Nottinghamshire has enjoyed a few good seasons of first class cricket and could crack the nod ahead of Finn who has struggled stamp his authority on this series.

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Sri Lanka
Graham Ford will be pleased with the fight that his side showed in the second innings at Chester-le-Street. Other than that, it’s been a pretty forgettable series for the Sri Lankans.

They’ve shown a bit of guile with the ball while the batsmen – for the most part – have struggled to come to grips with the insane amount swing on offer in overcast conditions in Leeds and Durham. They’ll have to ready themselves for more of the same as the third and final Test due to be played at fortress Lords.

Karunaratne has criticised  the bowling that his side faced in their two warm-up games against Essex and Leicestershire. “I don’t think the century in that warm-up game (against Leicestershire) was very satisfying. The opposition sides we played against were basically second-string teams. In our second warm-up game, there were just two fast bowlers and the rest were spinners. I wasn’t too pleased after getting the hundred.”

He’s correct to a degree. Neither Essex nor Leicestershire put out starting XI’s that were anywhere near their strongest. That said, they did give the Sri Lankans plenty to think about in both games. Who can forget the story of 18-year-old Aaron Beard who took four wickets for Essex in his first class debut? Still, neither of these games sufficiently prepared this young Sri Lankan side to face the likes of Broad and Anderson.

Their cause hasn’t been helped by injuries and suspect actions. Shimanda Eranga has been reported for a suspect action. It was the first time in 18 Tests that his action has been called into question. If it is found to be illegal, he will be banned from bowling in international cricket until such time that he remodels his action and has it cleared by the ICC. There were also injuries to Dushmantha Chameera and Dhammika Prasad who have been ruled out for the remainder of the series.

The selectors are considering handing a debut to 29-year-old Chaminda Bandara, who is apparently able to swing the ball a mile at pace. This could well be exactly what the Islanders need at Lords where conditions are expected to aid lateral movement through the air.

To be frank, I don’t really think the Sri Lankans have any chance of winning this Test. They’re a team in transition and coach Graham Ford will understand this better than most. He’ll want his side to show some of the tenacity and fight that was displayed in their second innings at Chester-le-Street last week. Whether or not they’ll be able to give the English a scare remains to be seen.

The Venue: Lord’s
The third and final Test will be played at the Home of Cricket – Lord’s. All of the players will be vying to get their names on the various honours boards at the ground. It is said that the venue inspires opposition more than it does the hosts. The period between 2006 and 2010, the pitch was considered to be somewhat of a batsman’s paradise, with numerous batsmen managing to get their names on the now precariously overcrowded honours board. Things have changed since then and the wicket’s sped up a bit since then offering a bit of something for everyone, although I expect the quicks to dominate in the third and final Test.

Local weather stations are reporting that we’re in for a ton of rain over the five days of the Test and result may not be reached – keep this in mind when you’re looking to take your bet.

Verdict: Draw 4/1
There is just far too much rain about London during the five days for me to call a winner here. While we might get one or two day’s play in, it may not be enough to get a result. Keep an eye on the weather in the lead-up to the match before taking any bets. 

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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