Let’s Hope For A Contest – 1st Test Preview

Nervous? Didn’t think so. Excited? Not particularly. The first test of the summer gets under way at Headlingley tomorrow. Most of us expect it to be a pretty one-sided affair, with England’s established players cashing in big time and those who have struggled in test cricket thus far boosting their stats and perhaps flattering to deceive.

I don’t want to seem disrespectful to Sri Lanka, who have some very admirable cricketers, but that’s just the way most England fans see it. The online betting tells a similar story. If England don’t win, and win very handsomely, something’s seriously amiss.

This bottom line is that Sri Lanka are in poor form, generally struggled in the warm-up games, and are there for the taking. They’ve got severe batting issues, a popgun bowling attack, and conditions will be against them. If they struggled against that Beard bloke from Essex what’s going to happen when they run into Jimmy Anderson and his stubble?

My personal feeling is that Sri Lanka’s confidence (or lack of it) will be key. If England start well the visitors could be in big trouble. Their problems could escalate very quickly. Their team-sheet lacks just about everything a touring side in England needs: experience, stability, a good pace attack, and a proven ability to play the swinging ball.

Although the visitors surprised a few people by winning in 2014, the context is completely different this time. Back then England were the ones feeling their way. We’d just suffered an Ashes whitewash, the captain’s batting technique was all over the place, and off-field political shenanigans were proving a massive distraction. This time England have just returned from South Africa with the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy safely tucked away in their back pocket. The team is on a high.

That’s not to say that Sri Lanka’s cause is hopeless though. Far from it. Although I expect England to romp home easily, there are certainly weaknesses for the guests to exploit. Although we bat deep, and our pace attack looks extremely solid, our top and middle-orders are far from the finished article.

The top three looks particularly vulnerable. Alex Hales has looked skittish, technically poor and out of his depth in his test career to date. Although he might turn things around against this limited Sri Lanka attack (if nerves don’t get the better of him), here’s a player Sri Lanka can target.

And of course, if Hales goes early, it will bring the hapless Nick Compton to the wicket. As everyone knows, Compton has been in terrible form for Middlesex and he probably doesn’t deserve his place. One suspects he’s on borrowed time. Once again, England will rely heavily on Cook and Root. Otherwise it will be left to the debutant, James Vince, to rescue the team.

However, even if England do endure some uncomfortable moments, and get bowled out relatively cheaply by the promising Dushmantha Chameera, I expect our bowlers to get us out of trouble – particularly up north in May. Sri Lanka’s opening pair of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silver average just 35 and 32 in test cricket respectively. Things aren’t going to get any easier in English conditions against experienced new ball bowlers like Broad and Anderson.

Once England get their teeth into Sri Lanka’s batting, much will rest on the excellent Angelo Mathews. Dinesh Chandimal is an exciting player to watch, as is young Kusal Mendis by all reports, but one senses their natural exuberance could get them into trouble if cloud cover gathers over Headingley. One suspects Sri Lanka will have to bat out of their skins, and England will need to bowl poorly, for the visitors to score competitive totals.

Personally I hope Sri Lanka do put up a fight. There’s nothing worse than watching a one-sided affair that makes a mockery of test cricket. The last thing we need is a repeat of the pathetic Australia versus West Indies series during the winter.

Test cricket needs touring teams, especially the poorer nations, to start performing better away from home. I’m not sure what anybody will gain if England rack up 500-3 every time – which will lead to a false sense of security before the bigger challenges ahead – and then Sri Lanka capitulate meekly.

Sure Sky will wax-lyrical about England’s ‘brave young team’ of essentially middle-aged and experienced cricketers, but veteran supporters won’t be fooled. A victory against weak opposition at home in May won’t mean much when England visit India this winter and then Australia the following year. That’s what we’re building towards.

Let’s hope we’ve been properly tested, and battle-hardened, before then.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with OnlineBetting


  • Blimey James, who’s upset you this morning? Quite frankly, I’m so glad I can stop watching the IPL and watch some proper cricket and I don’t care two hoots if Root and Vince et all can get some big runs.

    At least I won’t have to listen to Danny Morrison having a mini orgasm every time someone swings the bat in the direction of boundary or wince every time Sunil Gavaskar mentions a Vitara Brezza glam shot! No, Joe Root caressing another ball to the boundary and the silky words of DI Gower are I need to kick start the summer.

  • I reckon England (or certainly, England’s batting) will be tested before the end of the summer, particularly if Mohammed Amir gets his visa (as he should – he’s served his time). But probably not by Sri Lanka. To be fair to Sri Lanka, they’ve just lost two of their best ever batsmen (there’s a man playing for Surrey who could probably give them some help), and the weather won’t help. These May tests (clashing with the IPL, and usually subject to weather problems) really aren’t a good idea: we should wait till June. All Sky’s fault.

  • High hopes for chameera and mendis. Personally I hope stpkes continues good form. Despite its lack of hype this is a big series for England, and importantly for the selectors. They aught to be under pressure from Strauss as they don’t seem to make sharp decisions. If Compton fails as I imagine he will, then they will be in the s***. Bairstow I imagine will do fine with the bat but his glove work is still quite simply awful and I’ve watched yawkshure a few times this season! If both of these problems occur, James Whittaker and co won’t be the guys I’d want to save it. Why not get Nasser or one of these ex players who talk and think so well about the game if not the toss on the board?!?!

  • “Test cricket needs touring teams, especially the poorer nations, to start performing better away from home”.

    SL, even with Ranatunga, Murali, Vaas, Sanga et al, have only ever won two series against ‘top eight’ teams outside of Asia. One was the last time they were in England – and the other was in NZ in the 1990s. (One match in 1998 isn’t a ‘series’).

    The current team has only one batsman other than Mathews who has scored a Test century outside of Asia. Very impressive if you can name him without checking!

  • Wow, it starts tomorrow does it? Who’d have thought it?

    Sky’s masterplan working to perfection…

  • At least you get to watch it. Pay TV in Australia isn’t showing it and from memory they didn’t show it the last time Sri Lanka toured England either (though they did show the following England vrs India series)

    Obviously I would never watch cricket for free on the internet but if anyone happens to know a site that may be showing it ………………

  • As well as rabbiting on about ‘A young team’ and ‘No fear cricket’ on Sky we now have an excruciating black and white intro with David Lloyd burbling on. It is quitenauseating

  • Any discussion on the game so far? Not the finest of starts by any means.

  • “Hales always seems to try and ‘hit’ the ball rather than letting it come to him. Very much like a club cricketer ”

    So did Pietersen. Some batsmen like to hit the ball early, some like to hit it late. Its not right or wrong, just different techniques.

    • I wasn’t referring to how late he hits the ball, it’s how hard his hands seem. Pietersen did not have a great technique imho and played exclusively off the front foot. He could get away with it because his eye was sensational.

      • I know we all like to fetishize the “classical” batsman who plays the ball as late as possible and with soft hands Ian Bell – style down to third man because it looks more “effortless”, but playing with hard hands is a perfectly valid and viable technique.

        • That’s because flat track bullies tend to use hard hands and hitty techniques.. Which in theory we want to see struggle in tests and only play in 2020 biff

  • England really struggling against quite average bowling. Poor shots by Root and especially Cook have really put the pressure on.


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