Cricket

Sri Lanka vs England: Hosts aim to better rankings, Joe Root and Co look to improve poor Asian record in Rangana Herath's swansong

  • Rex Clementine
  • November 5th, 2018
  • 20:01:54 IST

Sri Lankan cricket has fallen on tough times recently. Their campaign in the recent Asia Cup ended before India played their first game following shocking defeats at the hands of Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Two of their former players have been charged by the International Cricket Council for breach of the Anti Corruption Code of Conduct. Ranked eighth in ODI cricket and ninth in T20s, the Sri Lankan side has hit new lows in the last 24 months. But they have done reasonably well in Test cricket and could move up to number three rank if they do well in the series against England that gets underway here in Galle.

Sri Lankan cricketer Rangana Herath (R) celebrates with teammates Dimuth Karunaratne (L) after he dismissed South Africa's Dale Steyn during the fourth day of the second Test match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) international cricket stadium in Colombo on July 23, 2018. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)

Sri Lankan cricketer Rangana Herath (R) will be playing his career's last Test in Galle. AFP

A 3-0 clean sweep of England will help them to climb up to the third spot from the current rank of six. The hosts have named four spinners in the squad for the series and will heavily bank on them like they did during the 2-0 series win over South Africa two months ago.

Unlike South Africa, England have a decent spin attack. Both off-spinner Moeen Ali and leg-spinner Adil Rashid will feature in the side and Somerset spinner Jack Leach could play in the spinner friendly conditions. The left-arm spinner had a rich haul of wickets in First-Class cricket this season at Taunton as Somerset finished second in Division One.

Veteran Rangana Herath will only be there for the first Test in Galle as he brings the curtain down on a career that stretched for 19 years. Herath is cricket’s only link to the 20th century having made his Test debut in 1999.

The 40-year-old needs only one more wicket to complete 100 Test wickets in Galle and when he gets there he will join two other greats – Muttiah Muraltharan and James Anderson as only the third player to claim 100 Test wickets at a single ground.

The dodgy weather in Galle, however, could spoil Sri Lanka’s plans. Both teams were forced to train indoors due to rain and wet ground conditions and the entire field was covered throughout Monday.

There was a minor distraction for the hosts ahead of the series opener as seamer Lahiru Kumara was sent home on disciplinary grounds. He has been replaced by fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera.

England have an awful record away from home having not won a Test match in more than two years. Their last win overseas came in Chittagong when they beat Bangladesh by 22 runs in 2016. Since then they have played 13 games overseas - lost ten and drawn three. Five of those defeats have been by an innings and that sums up England’s form in Tests overseas.

To make matters worse, the tourists will be without former captain Alastair Cook, who retired at the end of last English summer. Nine of Cook’s 33 Test hundreds came in Asia where he averaged 53, way above his career average of 45.

England skipper Joe Root admitted that his team will miss Cook. “It will be my first Test match without playing with Alastair. It’s a big loss in terms of experience and everything he brings to the squad and the team. Of course we miss him. But it’s a great opportunity for someone else to make that spot their own, stand up and do something special for England,” he said.

Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal admitted that the absence of Cook will be a plus point for his side. “That's one advantage we've got. We all know how good is Alastair. Definitely they will miss his experience. He has toured here a couple of times. But we don’t want to underestimate them,” Chandimal said.

Surrey’s Ben Foakes is expected to make his debut as Jonny Bairstow, who sustained an ankle injury during the ODI leg of the tour has not recovered.

For Sri Lanka, Angelo Mathews, who was axed from the ODI and T20I squad after the disastrous Asia Cup campaign makes a return to the Test side. Opening batsman Kaushal Silva will also make a comeback playing his first Test match in more than a year.

England have not won a series in Sri Lanka in 17 years with the last triumph coming in 2001 when Nasser Hussain led the side to an exciting 2-1 series win. Since then they have lost two series and drawn one here.

Squads:

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal(Captain), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Niroshan Dickwella and Dushmantha Chameera.

England: Joe Root(c), Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, James Anderson, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Joe Denly, Olly Stone, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Rory Burns and Ben Foakes.

Umpires: Chris Gaffaney (NZ) and Marais Erasmus (RSA)

Third Umpire: Ravi Sundaram (IND)

Match Referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)

Updated Date: November 05, 2018 20:01:54 IST

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