The 1st Test between Sri Lanka 9/4 and England 8/5 gets underway in the early hours of Monday morning with all eyes on the tourists who are looking to storm back from their humiliating series defeat to Pakistan last month.
England maintain their number one status in test cricket but the nature of their 3-0 defeat to Pakistan, a team ranked 5th in the world, sent shockwaves through the England camp, who hadn’t suffered a series whitewash since the Ashes of 2006/2007. Captain Andrew Strauss and coach Alan Flower have been left with a lot to ponder and unfortunately for them the challenge doesn’t get any easier. Sri Lanka might be ranked 6th in the ICC rankings and coming off the back of three defeats in the Asia Cup, but they have the credentials to topple cricket’s best test side, especially at home. The Galle is somewhat of a fortress for the hosts and it should also be noted that it favours spin bowling, a method which isn’t to the liking of many England cricketers.
Strauss and his team-mates line-up against the 2011 Cricket World Cup runners-up on Monday knowing that they have never won a test match at the Galle, so what will it take from the tourists to finally break their duck? Well, the sweltering heat won’t aid their cause but one of England’s biggest assets this time around looks to be Kevin Pietersen. The 31-year-old South African-born cricketer has yet to score a test hundred in Sri Lanka but his recent displays in England’s two warm-up games suggest that Pietersen is ready to deliver. The aforementioned is undoubtedly the most creative cricketer in England’s ranks but the most consistent and accomplished is Alastair Cook. England’s one-day captain has the game to single-handedly turn a test in his sides favour and the movement and awareness his showed in England’s recent warm-up game against the Sri Lankan Board XI bodes well for the tourists who seek their maiden win at the Galle.
Sri Lanka v England Betting Tips
1st Innings Lead: Sri Lanka 11/10
The hosts come into this Test match in poor form, but so do the tourists. Playing spin has always been an Achilles heel for England and it was evident again in their warm-up matches last week. As already mentioned, the Galle favours spin bowlers so back Sri Lanka to take a 1st innings lead.
Top England Batsman: Alastair Cook 11/4
Initially, it was a toss-up between Cook and Pieterson 4/1, however, all too often the latter has too many moments of carelessness. There’s no doubting he’s in better form today than he was a few months back but Alastair Cook is as solid as they come and his warm-up performance midweek in baking conditions was resilient and he’s the percentage call to be Top England Batsman in the 1st innings.
Top Sri Lanka Batsman: Mahela Jayawardene 10/3
Another toss-up between two cricketers but this is much closer than above. Kumar Sangakkara 10/3 is no stranger to marathon innings and he could well rack up another here but I’m opting for Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, who is one of the most elegant batters in the history of the sport and has already notched up test hundreds against England.