Don’t expect the Sri Lankan team that was hammered in both Tests in South Africa over Boxing Day and New Year’s to be the same pushovers when they walk out to take on England in their first Test starting Thursday. They will be a lot stronger and menacing at home than on the green, bouncy pitches of Centurion and Johannesburg.
England have actually been in Sri Lanka preparing for the two-Test series longer than the hosts, who arrived later on the back of their 2-0 defeat in South Africa. But this Sri Lankan XI will resemble shadows of that which lost heavily in SA. Angelo Mathews is their talisman and he’ll be back after missing the SA tour.
Dinesh Chandimal will be fit after missing the second Test at the Wanderers, while the hosts have added to their fast bowling and spin options.
Not that fast bowling is expected to dominate in Galle. Winning the toss is always important here and the team will decide to bat first. The pitch traditionally dries up and turns into a dustbowl from day three when the spinners come into their own.
Don’t expect the pitch this time to look like the Sahara desert, but expect a war of attrition from day three. Be warned too that unseasonal rain has been falling in Galle the past few days.
England have been bolstered by the presence of the great Jacques Kallis in their ranks as batting consultant. South Africa’s loss is definitely England’s gain in that regard and social media showed him in deep discussion with England captain and run machine Joe Root earlier in the week.
Root (pictured) is at 2.60-1 to be England’s top run-scorer and that’s worth a wager.
The tourists themselves are missing the likes of the rested Ben Stokes, plus spinning allrounder Moeen Ali and wrist spinner Adil Rashid and Root has said that his spin options will rest with Dom Bess and Jack Leach for this match – and himself, of course.
If you’re betting on the match, consider that all of their last 26 Tests between Sri Lanka and England have ended in a winning result (no draws), with the hosts holding a 14-12 advantage.
When looking at the odds, you’ll see that England are 1.40-1 favourites, with Sri Lanka 2.00-1 and the draw 2.20-1. If you have the patience, consider waiting for the toss to see who wins it and bats first. Given the traditional conditions you don’t want to be the team batting last at Galle.