Test Cricket 2021: England Vs Sri Lanka Series Preview – Can Bruised Sri Lanka Fend Off Rising England?
Test Cricket was at its best in the last couple of weeks. Fawad Alam & Mohammad Rizwan almost survived four sessions after being down 0/2 on Day 4 against New Zealand. India’s Australia tour has included everything from a 36 All Out and an XI of injured players to an exhilarating Day 5 finish.
Test Cricket is beautiful, and we get to see more of it with England-Sri Lanka. Both England and Sri Lanka are coming off South Africa tours (with contrasting results). Interestingly, England were in Sri Lanka long before Sri Lanka themselves.
While England have managed to play a Team Root Vs Team Buttler, Sri Lanka are still raw from all the injuries in the South Africa series.
Well anyway, here is our Series Preview! Read till the end to check out our predictions. We have a table for our predictions – Most Runs, Wickets, Emerging Player, Surprise Package, and MVP! Let us know who you think will win these in the COMMENTS below!
When and Where?
Here are the dates and the venue for the Sri Lanka Vs England Test Series.
England Favorite Without Full-Strength Squad
- Last time England toured Sri Lanka in 2018, they crushed the home team 3-0. This time, however, they will be without key players in Rory Burns (paternity leave), Ben Stokes & Jofra Archer (rested), and from 2018, Adil Rashid (no longer a Test prospect) & Moeen Ali (COVID/quarantine).
- If England can repeat their 2018 heroics, they will need the help of the 5 Bs-BBC nominated Broad, Buttler, Bairstow, Bess, and Ben (Foakes), the centurion on debut last time around. A couple of wicket-keeper batsmen, an off spinner, and a fast bowling enforcer, they all need to chip in.
- The Fab 4. Or is the Fab 5? Shall I say the Big 3? You know exactly who I will be talking about here—none other than Joe Root. Too much has been made of his conversion rate, and Babar Azam ‘taking over’ Joe Root. In all reality, Root is still a stellar player with an amazing record. I argue that the fact that England do not seem to need him as much as the other countries is a reflection of the strength of this English team, not the fall of a rising career. I hope he answers his critics with the bat. Anyway this rant may become an article some other day.
Middle Order The Key
- Angelo Mathews is back after missing the South Africa series, and Chandimal should be back after getting injured in SL-SA first test. A Chandimal-Thirimanne-Mathews middle order was an adequate replacement for Dilshan-Sangakkara-Jayawardene, at least in Test cricket. Unfortunately, it did not materialize due to inconsistency & injuries.
- If the middle order rises, with Karunaratne’s stability and flair from the Kusal’s (Perera and Mendis), they will finally have a consistent & complete batting order.
- The real question is can they bounce back from the injuries? Who will be fit? If the stalwart Dilruwan Perera & another spinner in the form of Embuldeniya/PWH de Silva can hold one end, and 2 out of Shanaka/Lakmal/Rajitha/Fernando/Kumara can literally stand up, this Sri Lankan team might be a handful at home.
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Key Matchups To Watch Out For
- England’s Top Order Vs Sri Lanka’s Pacers: With Sibley and Crawley now established in this line up and Bairstow, Root, & possible debutant Dan Lawrence to follow, Lakmal/Shanaka vs Sibley/Crawley will be key.
- Jonny Bairstow & Angelo Mathews Vs The Rest of the World: Bairstow & Mathews have both had interesting careers so far. Both expected to be the next great things for England & Sri Lanka respectively, they have had their moments. Unfortunately, though, they have also had their share of administrative/media run-ins + fitness issues/technical fault to never establish their position in Test Cricket for long. Make or break for both.
- Lankan Spinners Vs England Middle Order: If Sri Lanka are to emerge victorious, spinners would need to contribute heavily. England’s middle order succumb to spin—Sri Lanka win. England’s middle order battles hard—England has the upper hand. As easy as that.
The Broken Dream
England: Moeen Ali
- Moeen Ali’s South Africa tour began with a resounding statement of giving it all in every format for the final leg of his career. Well, England blew South Africa out of the park in the T20Is, and Ali was not needed. The ODI series? Abandoned. Fast forward to Sri Lanka—finally expected to play in the turning tracks of Galle, Ali got COVID and is out of the reckoning.
Sri Lanka: Lahiru Thirimanne
- Thirimanne debuted way back in 2010, in the Dilshan-Sangakkara-Jayawardane-Malinga generation. He looked a wonderful prospect and has played some decent innings across formats. However, an average of 22.68 after 36 Tests with a solitary hundred reflects the trajectory of his career. At 31, he might still be at his peak. Will Thirimanne get another chance/can he justify his selection? Or are his international cricket dreams over? I guess we will find out.
Verdict: 1-0 England Win
Here are my detailed predictions.
|Player of Series/MVP||Joe Root||Dimuth Karunaratne|
|Most Runs||Joe Root||Kusal Perera|
|Most Wickets||Stuart Broad||Dasun Shanaka|
|Emerging Player||Dan Lawrence/Jonny Bairstow 2x||Angelo Mathews Without Injury|
|Surprise Package||Jack Leach||Lasith Embuldeniya|
Given Sri Lanka’s lack of match practice and injured bodies, England are going to win the first Test against Sri Lanka, and win big.
In the 2nd game, Sri Lanka will be down and out for three days before fierce defense/rain will save the game, courtesy Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews. It would be a perfect sequel to Pakistan’s Azhar-Alam-Rizwan and India’s Pant-Pujara-Vihari-Ashwin Asian resistance.
Let us know your thoughts on the Sri Lanka Vs England Test Series. WHAT IS YOUR EVENTUAL SCORELINE? Predictions?
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My Starting XI:
These are my starting XI for the first Test (assuming everyone is available in terms of COVID and injuries).
With the injury form Sri Lanka are bringing in from South Africa, I am going in with an extra bowler with Shanaka batting at #7.
- Dimuth Karunaratne*, 2. Kusal Perera (WK), 3. Dinesh Chandimal, 4. Kusal Mendis, 5. Angelo Mathews, 6. Dhananjaya de Silva, 7. Dasun Shanaka, 8. Suranga Lakmal, 9. Dilruwan Perera/PWH de Silva (Wanindu Hasaranga), 10. Vishwa Fernando, 11. Lasith Embuldeniya
Bairstow is expected to slot in at #3. I would love to see Ben Foakes in this series, but it is unlikely that he will make the XI in the 1st due due to the presence of Bairstow and Buttler. Maybe they can fit in all 3 and only play one out of Broad/Anderson like 2018, but this would be my personal first choice.
- Dom Sibley, 2. Zak Crawley, 3. Jonny Bairstow, 4. Joe Root*, 5. Dan Lawrence, 6. Jos Buttler (WK), 7. Sam Curran/Chris Woakes, 8. Stuart Broad, 9. James Anderson, 10. Dom Bess, 11. Jack Leach
These are the other options in the squads.
Sri Lanka: Niroshan Dickwella (WK), Lahiru Kumara, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kasun Rajitha, Minod Bhanuka, Dushmantha Chameera, Asitha Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Santhush Gunathilake, Dilshan Madushanka, Roshen Silva, Lakshan Sankadan, Nuwan Pradeep, Ramesh Mendis
England: Mark Wood, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes (WK), Dan Lawrence, Olly Stone
Standby: James Bracey (WK), Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Robinson Amar Virdi
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