England halt Sri Lanka's victory march?
In the 14 months since the Colombo defeat which cost them their
home series against England last year, Sri Lanka have carried virtually
all before them. They have won all but one of the 11 Tests they
have played since, and in so doing beaten India (2-1), Bangladesh
(1-0), West Indies (3-0) and Zimbabwe (3-0), all at home, and for
good measure defeated Pakistan at Lahore in the final of the Asian
Test Championship. By contrast England have not won a rubber in
the same period, drawing 1-1 with Pakistan, losing 4-1 to Australia
and 1-0 to India, and then squaring their most recent series in
New Zealand at a game apiece.
Why, then, are
England are favourites to win the three-match series that starts
at Lord's on May 16th, with Sri Lanka at 5/2? Granted, Muttiah Muralitharan
has been ruled out of the Lord's Test with the shoulder injury he
sustained in on his 30th birthday in the Sharjah Cup final. Conceivably
he may miss the entire series, which would undoubtedly upset the
formbook given his influence when Sri Lanka won the one-off Test
at The Oval on their last visit in 1998.
Murali, in case
you needed reminding, took 16 wickets for 220 in the match, the
fifth-best analysis of all time. But beware of Sanath Jayasuriya's
assertion that Murali's absence at Lord's, if not for the next two
Tests, gives Sri Lanka the chance to prove that they are more than
a one-man team.
Nor are they.
Jayasuriya is averaging 41 in Tests, Mahela Jayawardene close on
50. Aravinda de Silva may be 36, but he too averages over 40 and
has invaluable experience of English conditions. Kumar Sangakkara
may not be the tidiest wicket-keeper in the world, but his average
of 53 from 20 Tests is remarkable, and he has made runs abroad.
Purely on averages, the top England batting is not as impressive.
Graham Thorpe is the only man averaging over 40; Marcus Trescothick
(37) and Nasser Hussain (36) come next. Of the other contracted
batsmen, Mark Butcher and Michael Vaughan will be keen to finish
the season in the higher rather than the lower 30s.
It is in the
bowling department that England should have the edge, particularly
in the early part of the summer when conditions are most likely
to suit. Caddick, Gough and Hoggard. Their averages are strikingly
similar: Gough 27, Caddick and Hoggard 28. But there's another man
on 28 - Chaminda Vaas - who must surely relish the opportunity to
play his first Test series in England in such conditions.
Vaas took more
wickets (16) in last year's home series against England than Muralitharan
himself. Backed up by Nuwan Zoysa and the recovered Dilhara Fernando,
he will surely be a key figure in the next couple of months. Despite
England's comparative lack of success over the past year, don't
forget that the series win in Sri Lanka was their fourth in a row.
Ashes defeat apart, they've proved doughty opponents in every series
they've played in over the past two years, and Murali or no Murali,
don't expect this one to be any different. - CricInfo
Lanka shine in drawn match against
British Universities drew with Sri Lanka on the final day of their
three-day tour match yesterday. Universities, replying to Sri Lanka's
first innings total of 383 for eight declared, were all out for
216 shortly before tea on the final day of the three-day tour match
on Saturday. Sri Lanka in their second innings made 128 for 1 with
openers Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayasuriya scoring half centuries.
Reuter report from Chelmsford, England, said yesterday that veteran
England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart could be in the frame for a surprise
recall for the series agasinst Sri Lanka after Jamie Foster, the
man who displaced him, broke his arm while batting in the nets on
Foster is expected
to miss at least the first two games of the three-test series against
Sri Lanka after breaking his left forearm while practising with
his Essex team mates at Chelmsford. An England and Wales Cricket
Board spokesman said: "He broke his left forearm while batting
in the nets - it's a stable break and he is expected to be out for
The first test
is scheduled to start on May 16 at Lord's. The 22-year-old Foster
won his first cap against India in December after Stewart, 17 years
his senior, opted not to tour. Stewart last played for England against
Australia in August, 2001 at The Oval. His decision to stay at home
over the English winter led to speculation that his 115-test career
could be over as England looked to younger players.
marks arose over Foster's own credentials in India and New Zealand.
Despite that, he won the backing of the selectors and was awarded
a central contract for the coming home test series against Sri Lanka
and India. England captain Nasser Hussain said last month that Foster
had shown his fighting qualities on tour but suggested Stewart,
who began his career as a specialist batsman, could still be considered
for next year's World Cup. Reuters