Once again we have to revert to the age-old cliché, “the weather will hold the key”, as the two foes, Sri Lanka and England, get set for their second battle come Tuesday at the P. Sara Oval.
With the South-West Monsoon settling rapidly, Colombo and its environs experienced several showers, but the one on Thursday night was a bad experience. If the Borella area experiences another of the same intensity from tomorrow onwards, the game is going to get affected in earnest.
At the same time on Thursday afternoon Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s army created a huge surprise by defeating the top dogs of Test cricket, England, with a day to spare. It was a story that ran against the norm, as being their home grounds it was the Lankans who went into the game short of home turf practice rather than the opposing camp. Yet the Englishmen, after drawing first blood by flooring the home team to a bleak 15 for 3 surrendered to the batting sword of Mahela to the tune of 180 runs and a Lankan score of 318.
|Bells toll for England – Ian Bell England’s best player of spin bowling walks back to the pavilion in the second innings of the match. (Pic by Amila Prabhoda)
So far out of the fourteen tests played at this venue Sri Lanka has won on seven occasions, while India and Pakistan have won once each. England too won once at the P. Sara Oval – that was way back in 1982 when Sri Lanka played its inaugural test. Since then England has not played a Test match at this venue.
The Oval wicket has been a wicket more conducive to batting than the Galle wicket, but yet it will be a real Indian sub-continent spinner friendly wicket.
The Lankan camp, hoping to enforce its authority in this series, will be looking for a better start from openers Thirimanne and former captain T.M. Dilshan as this time, weather permitting, the Englishmen will be looking for a soul saving show.
At one drop Kumar Sangakkara who is going through an indifferent patch lately will be looking for a knock that will put him back on the same pedestal that brought him the No. 1 spot in the ICC rankings.
However with the news that vice captain Angelo Mathews is back in action after injury it is likely that young Dinesh Chandimal who acted in the first Test as if he was suffering from the Mad Max syndrome would make way for him. Chandimal on both innings got in, but got out playing very loose strokes. Yet, he is Sri Lanka’s batting future and should be nurtured with utmost care.In bowling once again the onus will go to the spin duo of Herath and Randiv, but this wicket at the Oval may not be as kind to them as the one at Galle.
However in the seam department left armer Chanaka Welagedera is out with a groin injury and his place is covered by the very promising Shaminda Eranga who had a very encouraging test debut against Australia last September.
With the pitch becoming more batting friendly the Englishmen may opt to go with a three-one pace spin combination. With Stewart Broad out with injury it seems that the visitors may bring in pacemen Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn at the expense of Monty Panesar.
Sri Lanka from: Mahela Jayawardene ( Captain), Angelo Mathews (Vice captain), Thilan Samaraweera, T.M. Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavithana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Silva, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suranga Lakmal, Dhammika Prasad, Suraj Randiv and Rangana Herath.
England from: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook (vice-captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Steven Davies, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell and Jonathan Trott.