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England vs Sri Lanka 2nd Test Preview

Written by Rick John Henry for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

England vs Sri Lanka | Friday 20 June – Tuesday 24 June | Headingley, Leeds | 12:00

A benign pitch at Lord’s served up an unexpectedly exhilarating first Test, Sri Lanka undoubtedly the side happier with the drawn outcome. A Test containing three centuries and a double hundred should ostensibly end in a stalemate, however England’s final hour on the fifth day put pay to the best of Sri Lanka’s defensive intentions. The final overs had it all. Fine swing bowling and Jimmy Anderson at his penetrative best, stern resistance from a captain shepherding the tail, a batsmen walking back to pavillion clearly not out and a nail biting DRS review. It is yet another advertisement for the engaging narrative of Test cricket, but slow over rates from both sides eventually scuppered a result. It is difficult to predict what lies in store at Headingley, though Lord’s proved a profitable excursion for your trusted writer.

To Win 
England 17/20
Draw 7/2
Sri Lanka 9/4

The hosts will take numerous positives from the first Test despite their inability to finish the job. In essence, they dominated much of proceedings but were fallible in their own right. Their batting line-up managed to break their string of low scores, Joe Root’s double century with able support for Prior, Broad and Jordan in the lower-order catapulting England to 575/9 declared. A noble effort, however captain Alastair Cook will turn his mind to a time that England were 120/4 after being inserted and looked at risk of throwing away their first use of the wicket. While the middle and lower-order’s runs were admirable, questions still surround a fragile top order. Newly appointed opener Sam Robson was beaten on both sides of the bat by deft Sri Lankan swing and while it is too early in his career to make assumptions surrounding his technique, he will benefit from a big score at Leeds, lest he suffer the fate of Nick Compton before him.

England found promise in Chris Jordan, both in attitude and aptitude, while Moeen Ali did not look an iota out of his depth. He will prove to be a useful future star for England, a stylish batsman who held his own as the primary spinner. He will only improve at this level. Liam Plunkett worked up an impressive head of steam but was ultimately ineffective, nerves probably contributing to a truly horrendous final over on his part. England also suffer from a unfamiliar slip cordon and a couple of catches could go down in that region in Leeds. James Anderson looks back to the height of his powers following an overworking last season which led to quite a few lethargic spells in Australia, and when it comes to lazy cricket, England are guilty as sin. Although both sides transgressed with slow over rates in the previous Test, England especially will rue the seventeen overs lost to dawdling, which eventually cost them the match.

Sri Lanka
The tourists preserved their impressive record at Lord’s with another hard fought draw at the Home of Cricket. Clearly defensive minded for this Test series, captain Angelo Mathews elected to bowl first on a pitch that showed a hint of green in the interest of protecting his batsmen from early morning swing, and in the hopes of exploiting it. That the Sri Lankans did and as previously mentioned, had England on the ropes for the first couple of sessions. However, the tourists cannot afford many sessions akin to the final one on the first day, where they went for five-an-over and failed to bowl as a unit. Sri Lanka will benefit from putting pressure on England’s scoring, a facet of the their game they are particularly sensitive to following the Ashes. Accuracy served the tourists well on the first day and must be a pertinent topic for Sri Lanka’s attack going forward.

Centuries from Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews, coupled with two fifties from Kaushal Silva, masked what was a shambolic batting display from the rest of the side. None of their final five batsmen reached double figures in any innings. They will need some form of sterner resistance at the back of the innings if they are to avoid getting bowled out twice at Headingley. It was almost the final over of play and Sri Lanka had five wickets in hand; the game was as good as saved. Collapse ensued and if it were not for the slow over rates of the previous days, they would surely have slumped to a loss. More bad news comes in the form of ‘keeper Prasanna Jayawardene, who has been ruled out with severe bruising on his finger, and Lahiru Thirimanne, who has the unfortunate pleasure of being Jimmy Anderson’s bunny. England’s seamer need only flick his new hairdo at the Sri Lankan middle-order star to knock him over at present.

Headingley plays host to the second and final Test, a wicket notorious for variable bounce and swing under cloud cover. Sri Lanka have never played a Test at the ground so will have little experience of conditions, while spats of rain threaten to shorten the contest on a couple of the days. Cloudy conditions are expected throughout, making batting a difficult task.

BEST: Top England 1st Innings Batsman, Alastair Cook 33/10
The England captain has looked particularly scratchy of late, but as an exceptional talent he is bound to bounce back eventually. He is one of the few England batsmen in the current squad with a Test century at Headingley, although that did arrive in the second innings. Still, even at the short price, I’m backing Cook to shine.

VERDICT: England 17/20
Headingley should assist the English seamers a little more than the flat pitch at Lord’s, and judging by Sri Lanka’s second innings collapse, they are susceptible to the moving ball. While I see them battling admirably in the first innings, another second innings slump is on the cards. Back the hosts.

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