Sri Lanka will settle for nothing less than a 2-0 series whitewash in the second and final Test against England in Colombo from Tuesday, as the buoyant hosts celebrate 30 years of Test cricket.
Sri Lanka won the first Test in Galle by 75 runs, meaning a draw would be enough at the P. Sara Oval in the Sri Lankan capital for a first series Test victory since 2009, when they beat New Zealand 2-0 at home. “We will go for 2-0 because we play our best cricket when we are positive,” skipper Mahela Jayawardene said on Monday.
Andrew Strauss’s spin-wary England will slip to number two in the world rankings behind South Africa if they lose or draw the second Test, but Jayawardene said his team was not going to show the tourists any mercy. “When you play a team like England, you have to be aggressive and look to get in front of them from the first ball. They are a strong side and will come hard at us,” he said.
“But we are prepared for that and ready to play good cricket. We played well in Galle and must now look to improve on that.” It was at the same venue that Sri Lanka played their inaugural Test in February 1982 against an England side led by Keith Fletcher, which won by seven wickets inside four days.
“It is going to be somewhat emotional,” Jayawardene said of the landmark Test. “Everyone who plays the match will become part of our rich history. We are humble and proud to be part of such an important game.”
The Galle win was only Sri Lanka’s second, and the first at home, in 18 Tests since world bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan retired in 2010 with a record 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets. The other win came in December, when they thumped South Africa by 208 runs in Durban, but went on to lose the series 2-1. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who claimed nine wickets against South Africa, destroyed England in Galle with six wickets in each innings to earn the man of the match award.
Jayawardene said the P. Sara Oval wicket will provide exciting cricket over the next five days. “It is usually a very good Test-match wicket,” he said. “There will be something in it for the quicks. The spinners will also come into play, batsmen will get value for their shots and the outfield is quick. “We like playing at venues like this which favour us. That’s what home advantage is.” The success of sixth-ranked Sri Lanka over the world’s number one team in Galle did not surprise Jayawardene, who hit a match-winning 180 in the game. “There are five to six teams in world cricket who can beat each other, given the conditions,” he said. “That is a good balance to have.” Sri Lanka make two changes from the side that won in Galle, bringing in fit-again Angelo Mathews and seamer Dhammika Prasad for batsman Dinesh Chandimal and injured paceman Chanaka Welegedara.
England-Sri Lanka squads for second Test
England (from): Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suranga Lakmal, Suraj Randiv, Rangana Herath, Dhammika Prasad.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (PAK) and Bruce Oxenford (AUS)
TV umpire: Rod Tucker (AUS)
Match referee: Javagal Srinath (IND)
Under-fire Strauss shrugs off captaincy talk
England’s Andrew Strauss insisted on Monday that he would fight on as captain and battle through his batting slump as the team look for a series-levelling win in the final Test against Sri Lanka. Strauss’s world number one side face a must-win situation at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo on Tuesday after losing the opening game of the two-match series in Galle by 75 runs. It was England’s fourth consecutive defeat in Asia this year following the 3-0 rout by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. They must win in Colombo to avoid falling to second spot in the world rankings behind South Africa. “We desperately want to win this Test match and make amends for what happened in Galle,” said Strauss, who is himself struggling to score runs at the top of a fragile batting order. “I am very sure we have the ability to do it, and that is what we will challenge ourselves to do in the next five days. “We have not been as consistent as we would like to be, and now we have this final chance and salvage something out of the winter and go into the summer with some momentum. “I retain absolute faith in our players. You are not going to win every game you play. But if you retain faith, you will turn it around, especially when you have players of quality in your side, which I know we have.” Strauss has gone 23 innings without adding to his 19 Test centuries, and managed just one three-figure knock in his past 48 innings. But the left-handed opener, who has averaged a poor 28.52 since his last century, denied he was thinking of resigning as captain to concentrate on his batting. “I have not considered quitting the captaincy, and going into this game, it is not something that is on my mind,” Strauss said. “Obviously I want to score some runs, there is no doubt about that. But I am confident we have the material to do well in this Test. Everyone is motivated to show that we can play better than what we have done so far. “I am not distracted at all about my form. The challenge of leadership is that it is easy when everything is going well. But when it gets tough, it is important to show the right direction. I like that sort of challenge.”