Can 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.

Last summer's 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
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.

Meanwhile, a 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 Saturday.

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 four weeks."

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.

But question 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

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