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England v Sri Lanka First Test, Headingley – Preview

With Sri Lanka returning to the ground where it pulled off a historic win two years ago, Alastair Cook's England is keen on revenge in the first Test of a three-match series

England v Sri Lanka First Test, Headingley – Preview - Cricket News
Sri Lanka will play three Tests in England, with the first starting on May 19 at Headingley.
Two years ago, Sri Lanka made history at Headingley, Leeds, when it snatched a thrilling series win over England off the penultimate ball of the final Test of their two-match series. Moeen Ali had brought up his maiden Test century and James Anderson, England’s No. 11, had survived 55 balls on nought until he gloved Shaminda Eranga to Rangana Herath at leg gully and had to watch in despair as an ecstatic Sri Lanka celebrated its 1-0 series victory.

Now, as the teams return to the site of that dramatic game for the first Test of a three-match series starting on Thursday (May 19), both Sri Lanka and England have a point to prove.

"There is a bit of revenge to be had," said Stuart Broad, reflecting on that 2014 series. "It was quite an emotional series, it really hurt us as a team to lose in our own conditions."

Alastair Cook, the England captain, was criticised after that Headingley loss and had even contemplated resigning as skipper. Now, working with a new coach in Trevor Bayliss, Cook has overseen series wins over Australia in the home Ashes last year and, most recently, away in South Africa. He also needs just 36 more runs to become the first Englishman to reach 10,000 runs in Tests.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, is still working to fill the void left by the retirements of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

"We did well here," said Kaushal Silva, the opening batsman who played in that victorious 2014 team, on Tuesday. "We were thrilled with that, but this is a new series. Sanga and Mahela have left now. So it's time for all these youngsters to take their responsibility and do their jobs. We need to make sure we put up at least 300 ... to put ourselves in the game."

Sri Lanka will also be without Dhammika Prasad, whose five second-innings wickets played a key role in the 2014 triumph. The paceman injured his left shoulder during the first practice game and was ruled out of the first Test.

"He is one of the key bowlers, and obviously we'll miss him," said Silva. "But we have other very talented bowlers," he added of an attack that includes Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera.

England's line-up too could have a few new faces. James Vince of Hampshire is set to make his Test debut, with a space opening up following the shock retirement of James Taylor with a heart condition. Jake Ball, the Nottinghamshire paceman, could come in as the third seamer behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who is now the world's No. 1 Test bowler, if England chooses not to go with Steven Finn.

Joe Root, recently crowned England's player of the year in all formats, will be expected to lead the batting at his home ground as he aims to reclaim the No. 1 ranking in Tests from Steven Smith. He will be backed by Jonny Bairstow, another hometown boy, and Cook, with England hoping for strong performances from Alex Hales, the opener, and Nick Compton as well.

England has a poor recent record at Headingley, with just one win and four defeats at the ground since 2007. The home side will be motivated to believe the time is ripe for it to make amends.

Sri Lanka's tour is also set to be the first where points will be allocated to each Test, One-Day International and Twenty20 International win, to produce an overall winner.  

Teams (from):

England: Alastair Cook (capt), Alex Hales, Nick Compton, Joe Root, James Vince, Ben Stokes, Jonathan Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson, Jake Ball.

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dhananjaya Silva, Dasun Shanaka, Dilruwan Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Milinda Siriwardana, Niroshan Dickwella, Nuwan Pradeep, Rangana Herath, Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal.


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