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'England can expect some tough cricket' – Arthur issues warning ahead of Sri Lanka tour

Sri Lanka news

Sri Lanka's new head coach Mickey Arthur believes that England won't have it easy adjusting to demanding Sri Lankan conditions, after their 'pace-dominated' tour of South Africa.

England are set to tussle with Sri Lanka in their upcoming two-match Test series, set to begin with the first game in Colombo on Thursday, 12 March. “It’s very hot here in Colombo right now and with a two-Test series you can’t ease yourself in, you have got to hit the first Test running," Arthur told Observer. “England can expect some tough cricket.” 

Sri Lanka will switch to the Test format after a 2-0 drubbing at the hands of West Indies in the T20Is, which followed the Lankans' 3-0 whitewash of the visitors in the one-day format. For England, a 3-1 win in the South Africa Tests has given them a great start to the year, but Arthur believes that the setting will be entirely different in Sri Lanka, where Joe Root's men will have to grind under testing conditions.

“England have come from South Africa where pace dominated but this will be different. The games will move slower until days four and five, where spin will dominate. It will be a war of attrition and a compelling series to watch.”

With Moeen Ali not part of the Test setup, the onus will be on Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson to shoulder spin responsibilities alongside Jack Leach. Moeen was England's leading wicket-taker (18 wickets in three Tests), joint with Leach, on their 2018 tour of Sri Lanka when they clean swept the hosts 3-0. Arthur acknowledges that the all-rounder's absence is a big gap to fill.

“I do think Moeen is a big loss for England – finger spin plays a big role and he’s a quality cricketer. But I watched them in South Africa and they have gelled into a good side. Joe Root has asserted himself and developed a style. But they will be tested in different ways here and it will be interesting to see how they adapt.”

From his own line-up, Arthur has high hopes from Wanindu Hasaranga, the leg-spinning all-rounder, who is yet to feature in Tests. Sri Lanka have options in Dilruwan Perera and Lasith Embuldeniya, but it's Hasaranga who has attracted the coach's attention the most.

“This guy is something very, very special. He has got all the tricks, including a top-spinner and googly out the back of the hand I can’t pick. He is a proper batsman too, he made 44 off 34 in a T20I the other night [against West Indies in the first T20I], and a gun fielder.

“I would put him in the 10 most valuable cricketers in the world right now and yet people don’t know him. He really is a hidden gem. Remember the name, because he is the man.”

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