The Investec Series - 1st Test Preview - ENG vs SL.
Predominantly, cricket this year has been played in the shortest format. Half the year is almost over, but only six test matches have been played by all test playing nations, which clearly depicts that the ICC World Twenty20 2016 has had it's say in the first half of 2016. Following the World Twenty20 was the Indian Premier League, which deals in the shortest format as well.
To diminish the amplified T20 format, the cricket world presents in front of you all - "The English Summer."
A test match being played in England is a piece of joy for any cricket fan around the globe. The tradition displayed in this part of the world is seen nowhere else. So, here is Sri Lanka, who after traveling some 8,700+ km will play it's first test match in 2016. Out of the six test matches played this year, England has featured in three of them. All against South Africa in South Africa, drawing one, winning one and losing one.
Call it the longing of a national record or of a personal one, Alastair Cook will be the focal point in the first Investec test starting today in Leeds. Whether England bat first or second, cricket enthusiasts will have a keen eye on the England captain, for what he is going to achieve would make him the English cricketer to do so. Cook has 9,964 runs in the longest format under his belt. He just needs 36 more to become the 12th batsman overall to cross the 10,000-run mark. What remains of more importance is that he will be the first English batsman to do so. Hopefully, Cook should cross the barrier in this match and make it a memorable one for himself.
|Cook is closing in on 10,000 runs in test cricket.|
Talking about the English batting line-up, Alex Hales has somehow managed to keep his opening position intact. His indifferent form, which let him score 136 runs in four test matches against South Africa has not let him lose his spot. Nick Compton had a better series as compared to Hales. He scored 245 runs in four test matches and has been trusted yet again to bat at No. 3. Joe Root is in the phase where he can do nothing wrong. The 25-year old right-hand batsman is considered to be one of the best batsmen in the world at the moment. His batting average of 54.93 speaks for himself.
James Vince is on the verge of getting an England debut. Another 25-year old right-hand batsman, he will most likely bat at No. 5, replacing James Taylor, who was forced to retire from international cricket due to a heart ailment. Succeeding him will be Ben Stokes, who proved his place in the squad by scoring a swashbuckling double century against the Proteas. His role will not just be limited to batting, his right-arm fast-medium will be of equal importance to Cook. Jonny Bairstow will take care of the duty behind the stumps.
Call him the lone spinner or another all-rounder, Moeen Ali will bat at No. 8 and be more than just handy with his off-breaks. James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be running in fresh with the new ball considering the fact that the duo did not feature in the World Twenty20. One question which remained of utmost priority was whether Steven Finn would be included as the third seamer or will Jake Ball be given a debut alongside Vince. But Cook made it clear that England is likely to go with the experience of Finn.
If you talk of the past decade, 2016 has been one of the worst years for Sri Lanka as of now. The team failed in New Zealand, failed in the Asia Cup and failed in the World Twenty20 as well. The captain, Angelo Mathews would look up to test cricket to revive the winning ways back to the island nation. The selectors have comprised a team of 17 players, out of which most players are young and inexperienced. The squad looks similar to the squad which toured England in 2014. The two big names missing are Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath are the only two Sri Lankan players who have played more than 30 test matches. But the captain was adamant with the resources he has and is backing the fearless players.
Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva will once again face the new Duke ball in English conditions. Having played in 2014, the duo has vital experience against the likes of Anderson and Broad. Before the practice matches, Mathews insisted on giving Niroshan Dickwella a chance at No. 3. With the rise of Kusal Mendis in the practice matches, the latter has sealed his berth at No. 3.
Dinesh Chandimal and Mathews will have to replicate Sangakkara and Jayawardene in terms of both consolidating the innings and scoring the bulk of runs. Chandimal, who is in the 5th year of his test career, will have to take control of the batting in alien conditions. Not just batting, the fact that he is the vice-captain and will keep wickets makes him all the more important to the team.
|Chandimal will hold the key for Sri Lanka in the middle order.|
Dasun Shanaka's century against Leicestershire strengthens his case for the No. 7 spot. The 24-year old can bowl medium-pace which will be serviceable in English conditions. One call that Mathews will have to take is to choose between Lahiru Thirimanne and Milinda Siriwardana for the No. 6 position. Thirimanne will provide more solidarity to the lower middle order whereas Siriwardana will come as a left-arm bowling option to go with his batting. With Herath already in the side, will the management include Siriwardana remains the big question?
Dhammika Prasad's injured shoulder will not allow him to feature in the first test. Resultantly, one out of Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dushmantha Chameera and Shaminda Eranga will face the axe. The team will once again count on the insight of Herath as the only specialist spinner.
With a number of test matches scheduled over the year, this series will act as the inception, making it all the more interesting. Every possible result will be remembered in it's own way. Whether England will continue their winning ways in test cricket? Whether Sri Lanka will win it's second consecutive English tour? Whether the series in which Alastair Cook completes 10,000 runs in test cricket be an eternal one for the team? All such questions will be answered in the days to come.