This is a very unique situation indeed. When Sri Lanka takes on England at the Galle stadium tomorrow, in the first of two Tests, arguably for the first time in history a home side goes into a Test match with the visiting team having the home advantage.
The visitors have been in Sri Lanka for weeks with two good wins in their pocket while the Lankans, with their will dampened after the Bangladesh debacle, only had a practice session on the Galle wicket.
Adding to their woes the Lankans last played a game in Sri Lanka early last year against Australia and since then have been globe trotting, moving from England to Australia via South Africa and the Middle East.
The next drawback is their present adaptation to the white ball. Since the second half of the South African tour the Lankans have been playing white ball cricket in three continents continuously.
The conversion in two days may be a huge asking. However as professionals adaptation is just an occupational hazard and not a challenge.
Also there was a pre-match blow when Vice Captain Angelo Mathews was ruled out with injury, but, was covered by in-form batsman Chamara Silva who made over a thousand runs during the division one club cricket season and a timely century against the visiting bowlers turning out for Sri Lanka Cricket Development Xl. However with the run of play in Test cricket, how Silva could fit in would be a problem for skipper Mahela Jayawardena and the rest of the deciding camp. The likely Lankan batting line-up reads – T.M. Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavithana, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, Dinesh Chandimal, Thilan Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardena followed by the bowlers.
In the bowling department it is very likely that Lanky Suraj Randiv who also has had a good domestic season would be included in the side to operate along with experienced leftarmer Rangana Herath.
According to insiders Randiv in all probability will be utilized as the cover up for Mathews in the allrounder slot.
With the number one tag in Test cricket behind them, the English dressing room will be a more relaxed one than the home team’s.
So far the team has gelled according to plan and has played some smart cricket with the respective specialists performing to expectation. So far they have produced three centurions in skipper Andrew Strauss, his deputy Alastair Cook and the ever dependable Jonathan Trott.
Besides the mentioned, dangerous Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior and Samit Patel have aided their cause by scoring half centuries.
In their bowling, the experienced James Anderson, Stewart Broad (stayed out of practices yesterday with a strained ankle) and Steven Finn have handled the seam department well while the right arm-left arm combination of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann also have delivered the slower stuff with professionalism.
Besides the above if Bopara gets the nod into the final Xl he will not bowl, but the English camp is confident that Bopara’s role as the spare bowler can be filled by Pietersen (off spin) and Jonathan Trott (slow medium).
It is safe to say that all the above pointers go in favour of the visitors.
Yet, the Lankans are one of the most unpredictable outfits in world cricket today and being the underdogs may also fit in well with their present frame of mind.
So please do not rule out the Lankan lads, on this Galle wicket they have pulled off many a memorable victory.
Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene ( Captain), Thilan Samaraweera, T.M. Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavithana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Silva, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suranga Lakmal, Dhammika Prasad, Chanaka Welagedera’ Suraj Randiv and Rangana Herath.
England (from): Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook (vice-captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Davies, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott.