Will Sri Lanka Be Pushovers?

I watched an interview with Kumar Sangakkara last week. He said that England were the best all-round test team in the world, and that we were favourites to beat Sri Lanka away from home. Hmmmm. I do love Sanga, and he normally talks a lot of sense, but this time my BS detector (which makes large raspberry sounds when its sensors are stimulated) was working overtime. Talk about putting pressure on the opposition by talking your own team down.

It’s quite possible that Sanga hasn’t watched England play away from home before. Although I doubt it. England’s record overseas (especially in Asia) is absolutely pitiful and the whole world knows it. What’s more, although Sri Lanka aren’t as strong as they once were, and their big stars retired a while back, they aren’t that bad at all. At least not at home.

Whilst Sri Lanka played terribly in the Asia Cup, and lost to Bangladesh and Afghanistan – yes I know that’s pretty bad – they beat South Africa 2-0 in their most recent test series. Both wins were by large margins. They also drew 1-1 in the West Indies in the test series before that, and won 2-0 in Bangladesh. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you what happened the last time England toured Bangladesh.

What’s more, although Sri Lanka’s performances in the Asia Cup were pretty embarrassing, they only lost 2-3 to South Africa in the ODIs after the tests. They also recorded an aggregate victory of 2-1 over Bangladesh in the ODIs and beat Zimbabwe. The problem, of course, is that they also lost to Zimbabwe on one occasion. And that’s the result that everyone remembers.

Consequently, although people (including their own legends) might think England are favourites in all forms, I’m not so sure. Sri Lanka have proved to be very competitive in recent home test matches, and although their white ball form isn’t exactly brilliant, it’s not as bad as one might think. Performances have been erratic rather than consistently abysmal.

The bottom line is that England must approach this tour with caution. Sanga might have talked down the host’s chances but the smart money (in the test series at least) will probably be on Sri Lanka. There are  some interesting cricket promotions online if you want to take advantage of some generous odds.

As for England I still think our test team looks rather weak on paper. We’ll have a completely unproven opening partnership, a new No.3 unless Moeen keeps batting up the order, and then a number five who would be better served batting at 6 or 7 – that’s unless Joe Denly or Ollie Pope gets to play.

England always rely on their all-rounders to bail them out when they lose early wickets but this won’t be an easy exercise in the Sri Lankan heat. It’s fair to say that Bairstow and Stoke will be bloody knackered after keeping and bowling in the sweltering conditions.

Sanga was also inexplicably talking up our spin bowling the other day too. I really have no idea what he was on. Rashid is occasionally useful but has a test average of 40, Moeen is always dreadful away from home, and Jack Leach has talent but he’s very inexperienced on the international stage.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have a chap called Rangana Herath who has the small matter of 430 test wickets at an average of 28. Saying that Sri Lanka have a slight advantage in the spin department is a bit like saying James Bond is fairly popular with the ladies. Or that the Hundred is, on balance, not the best idea a cricket governing body has ever had.

Obviously I have a lot more faith in our ODI team than the test boys. England are ranked No.1 in the world for a reason whereas Sri Lanka have fallen to 8th. However, this tour will present a slightly different challenge to Eoin Morgan’s men. After all, we haven’t won an ODI series in Asia for some time.

I expect England to win but I’m not uber confident. Call me a miserable sod but I still half expect the white ball wheels to come off at some stage. It wouldn’t be England otherwise.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Boomtown

2018-10-09T18:25:50+00:00October 9th, 2018|SL v Eng 2018|32 Comments


  1. Doug M October 9, 2018 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    While we will probably win the ODI series, if the pitches turn, as they probably will, we will probably lose. Leach may do ok on a turner (pretty hopeless on flat tracks) but I wouldn’t be expecting much from Moen, Rashid or even Denley quite frankly. Add to that we are not good against spin, and, we’ll there you are. Being a Surrey man I hope Burns and the Currans do well of course, but I probably won’t watch much of it.

  2. James October 9, 2018 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    I think we will probably win the ODI series by a good margin but things don’t look so good for the tests. I can see a batting collapse or two if the pitch takes spin. Which they will. We need to win the toss and bat to have a chance. Sanga is a very intelligent guy but he’s well known for smart sledging and I think he is trying to put pressure on England knowing what that might do.

    • James October 9, 2018 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      For clarity I should say that 30/3 is a normal start not a batting collapse.

  3. Marce Evans October 9, 2018 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    If conditions are as slow and unresponsive to seam and swing as everyone expects I don’t see how we can take 22 wickets to win any matches. But hey-ho this is England we are talking about, so somewhere along the way, especially considering the comparative I experience of this Sri Lanka side, I have no doubt they will produce a performance, probably due to Sri Lankan shortcomings, as well as their inevitable batting collapses. Root and Anderson need to come to the party. If they do we are in with a chance.
    Personally I can’t see either side making a hatful of runs, so there could well be results every game.
    Anyone who can say that England are the best allround test side in the world, even as a pressure tactic, can’t be taken seriously, even by the England side. I don’t think this will put any extra pressure on them as they are fully aware of their recent limitations, especially abroad and know that comment bares no examination.

  4. David Deakin October 9, 2018 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Marce, May I remind you that you only have to take 20 wickets to win a test match although, the way England can’t catch these days, they need to create 24 wicket taking opportunities to win a Test match.

    • Marc Evans October 10, 2018 at 2:53 am - Reply

      Apologies for that slip of the pen, so to speak, though it it changes nothing as far as our bowlers go.
      I remember playing last man in when I was a kid, which sometimes bore fruit. Maybe that should be adopted in test matches. After recent England performances it would have left Butler to carry on batting, which might have been quite productive. It would also ease the pressure on Anderson style rabbits to hang about.

  5. Cricketcricketcricket October 10, 2018 at 6:33 am - Reply

    I agree with Marc. I can see either side winning because quite honestly.. both sides are dire so it’ll just swing one way each game as we go out and play counter attacking, positive brand of cricket

    Australia side looked one of the worst Red ball teams ever and then proves it.. I mean, it makes this England side actually look good! I wonder when peoooe will start to question the quality of players around…..

    Oh and the ECB have spanked all their money

  6. Jackie Litherland October 10, 2018 at 7:37 am - Reply

    Think Sangakkara is in his Surrey bubble. Also he is trying to put pressure on Sri Lanka board which is indulging in in-fighting re Mathews. So why should he be a reliable pundit? The Sri Lanka side has been weakened we know that. Cricket world wide is in a bit of a slump due to T20 leagues. However the climate will be a test for England players. You need to have prepared well to withstand the heat and humidity. Fielding and wicket keeping will be a trial. I remember Prior sinking to his knees between each over in a Test match in Columbo. The temp was 45. KP got a remarkable ton because he said he couldn’t run in the heat….England drew the Test Series. Herath is a seriously good bowler. He will pounce if England flag. However fitness levels are crucial. If England are fit they could win. A proviso is that the all rounders kept saving England against India. To do two jobs will be harder in the heat. The top order really has to deliver while fresh in my opinion. As for the ODIs England has to practice against spin. We might have another dry summer next year…So the ODI Series is timely.

  7. AndyB October 10, 2018 at 7:48 am - Reply

    The only good thing about white ball cricket is that anything can happen. You might as well consult Mystic Meg when it comes to Sloggit. Remember Scotland so recently…..or the Netherlands in T20 in 2009? And it is the same at all levels. I still remember our Surrey League side (and pretty much a 2nd XI) smashing a Surrey Championship full strength team in the 20 over cup. Even we did not know what had happened. Best to leave analysis and prediction to real cricket. 🙂

  8. Simon H October 10, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

    The Test series doesn’t even start until November 6th….

    I suppose we should be grateful there are at least three of them.

    • Marc Evans October 11, 2018 at 10:28 am - Reply

      I think that’s something to do with the Monsoon season, which having googled it seems to run all the year round there depending on what part of the country you’re in. October seems to be the most changeable month at this time of year as it’s the end of the season in one part and the beginning in the another, so I guess you could get vestiges of it almost anywhere at the moment.
      Ironically if we get turners, having 5 sunny hot days probably won’t matter, as matches could well be over in 3.

  9. d'Arthez October 10, 2018 at 9:51 am - Reply

    The ODI series England will win. Sri Lanka have been beyond dreadful since the last World Cup. And I don’t see any reason to think that that might change.

    As for the Test series, the best tossing side will win the series. Assuming the weather stays decent, and the monsoon season does not bail anyone out, that is.

    • AndyB October 10, 2018 at 12:35 pm - Reply

      If the outcome of the series is dependent on who has the best tossers does this suggest giving Giles Clarke a test debut?

      • James October 10, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

        No. Giles Clarke is a useless tosser.

      • d'Arthez October 10, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

        Best tossers. Not biggest tossers.

  10. Simon H October 10, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    These Australian batting collapses are fun! How can Maxwell and Renshaw not get in this line-up? Not elite-y or mate-y enough? Also it’s been interesting to see Khawaja making runs in Asia – almost as if not having Lehmann/Smith in his ear about how useless he is has made a difference…

    A medium-pacer has taken all the wickets. Pity nobody told him the English media think he can’t take wickets in UAE.

    Anyway, a few more thrashings like this and expect some re-drawing of the line so that Smith and Warner become available again sooner rather than later.

    • James October 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      It’s fair to say that Pakistan have a formidable record in UAE. I recall them hammering us not long ago.

      • d'Arthez October 10, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

        They were whitewashed in the UAE by Sri Lanka (who won both crucial tosses) last year, if I am not mistaken.

        • James Morgan October 10, 2018 at 6:59 pm - Reply

          But Sri Lanka are crap, right? 😉

          • d'Arthez October 11, 2018 at 9:02 am - Reply

            They are only competitive when they win the toss, in conditions that suit them.

            If they lose the toss even when conditions suit them, they struggle a lot. They needed an incompetent third umpire’s assistance to beat mighty Zimbabwe (who won the toss) in Sri Lanka no less.

  11. @pktroll October 10, 2018 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Sri Lanka will win the test series comfortably and likely whitewash England on turning pitches. It should be reminded that starting with the second test v Bangladesh 2 years ago England have failed to win an away test in 13 goes. Truly appalling and I really struggle to see that changing,

    Despite the washout today I see a very comfortable England victory in the ODI series where the pitches are less likely to be ones that crumble from ball one with the batting more comfortable, especially with two white balls and them getting softer and more easy for the spinners to grip so soon

  12. Cricketcricketcricket October 10, 2018 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    What a shame.. sloggerball got cancelled

  13. Doug M October 11, 2018 at 11:12 am - Reply

    When I watched England play Sri Lanka in ’93 it was 120f in the middle at Columbo. It’s so hot and humid you can get burned in the shade. Robin Smith got a ton and had a change of shirt 6 times during the day. Even taking into account England’s failings, which there are many, it’s a tough call for most International sides playing here. It’s pretty uncomfortable just watching, but in ’93 it was only 80p a day for a seat in the Pavilion, which compensated somewhat!

  14. Simon H October 11, 2018 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Gripping climax in Dubai and well done the Aussies for gritting it out in the fourth innings.

    Khawaja’s innings was the highest for an Australian in the fourthinnings in Asia (beating Bobby Simpson in 1964). In fact, it’s the highest fourth innings’ score by any non-Asian player in Asia. England’s highest is Trott’s 112 in Galle. Only five Asian players have made higher fourth innings’ scores (three from Pakistan, one Indian, one SL).

  15. Cricketcricketcricket October 11, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Nice to see a team fight it out for a draw and not just try and attack with a brand of cricket bull crap and fail dismally

  16. Cricketcricketcricket October 13, 2018 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Is sloggerball on ?

  17. d'Arthez October 13, 2018 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Sri Lanka doing best what they do well in ODIs these days.

    Batting implosion, tottering at 38/4 after the first ten overs of the chase in the second ODI (and it is really not unlikely they have been by the rain in the first ODI from a series whitewash). How lack of compelling viewing is healthy for the game, is a question the moneymen will need to be asking sooner, rather than later.

    So increasingly it starts to look like we have a 2 month World Cup, where the first real elimination (no one really expects Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies or Afghanistan to be in with a realistic shout for the semi spots) occurs about 6 weeks into the tournament.

    Might make more sense to have a playoff between Pakistan, South Africa, and New Zealand, to see who can join India, Australia and England for the actual tournament. At least the charade would be over in about 2 weeks.

    • Cricketcricketcricket October 13, 2018 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Amazing game then right ? 250+ plays team getting skittled.. perfect one day cricket right ??

  18. Simon H October 14, 2018 at 7:56 am - Reply

    A Michelle for Jason Holder, following the performances of Siddle and Abbas in Dubai, should knock more holes in the English media’s narrative about “you need pace or mystery spin in Asia”.

    What with Khawaja’s batting scuppering the “St Alastair was the last of his kind” cobblers as well, it’s been a bad week for English media narratives. Fortunately for them they’ll mostly be blissfully unaware given that very few of them watch or have any knowledge of matches where England aren’t playing.

    • d'Arthez October 14, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Sadly, Windies (as they are now officially called; I am not sure if people really thought about the name, since “Win Dies” seems rather applicable to their performances) imploded when they had Holder to thank for getting them back in the game.

      127 all out on a pitch that is doing something on Day 3, is poor. Some of the shots played were atrocious. The only question is whether India will be able to knock off the 72 runs needed for victory on Day 3. Even the die-hard Indian fans struggled to contain their yawns for this series. Even they thought of the result(s) as a foregone conclusion, and then one has to ask: what is the point?

      • Marc Evans October 15, 2018 at 11:43 am - Reply

        I feel sorry for the Win Dies as they have problems no other team encounters. Firstly the West Indies doesn’t exist outside the cricket world as either a sporting, economic or political unit, being just a disparate group of independent Islands. Secondly, many a promising cricketer is lured away to the more lucrative USA sporting scholarships for Basketball, Baseball, Track and Field and even American Football, being on the doorstep so to speak. This leaves them so short on natural talent that their previous experience in the English county scene from the 60’s through to the 90’s is no longer an outlet for them to gain valuable experience as the counties show no interest in long term signings of their youngsters. Lara could well be the last of the line in that respect.
        Being a Warwickshire man I grew up supporting the ‘West Indies Shire’ team of the 70’s, so have a great affinity with the likes of Gibbs, Kanhai, Kallicharran and Murray, who all served the county loyally for many years. It is always good to see world class players plying their trade, so I had no objection to the bevy of fast bowlers they produced being brought along by the counties long term.
        How much richer was the county scene was in the 70’s particularly, before the white ball took over, with leading West Indians, South Africans, Pakistanis, Indians and New Zealander’s all becoming a integral part of their team, many as captain. Supporters took them to their hearts as many came to live over here bringing their families for the duration. That sort of commitment is not realistic now.
        The problem we have is that the intensity of the international calendar makes it almost impossible for any international player to commit to long term to a county, as he is required to be available for his country pretty much all the year round, so we get the ludicrous selective contracts as players come in and out for a few games here and there in between international commitments. It seems only when players retire from the international scene can they become properly part of the county scene.

    • Cricketcricketcricket October 14, 2018 at 1:48 pm - Reply

      If khawaja can repeat said batting feats then sure, alistsir wasn’t the last but.. and it’s a big but… the odd random good knock doesn’t mean a great player.. we have loads of players capable of outstanding knocks but they fail consistently to produce which is the actual hallmark of a test cricketer

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