London, May 26: After all the hullabaloo surrounding IPL and the ODI World Cup, here comes a contest to reckon. Sri Lanka take on England in the latter's home soil for a three-Test series and this will in a way also set the tone for India's tour to the Old Country in a couple of month's time. India's tour is some time away but the English cricketers with their eyes firmly on the no.1 ranking in Tests will look to win the series against Sri Lanka comprehensively to narrow the gap in the points table.
A lot has happened since England won the Ashes in Australia and Sri Lanka were beaten in the World Cup final against India. England were drubbed by Australia in the ODI series that followed the Ashes and were inconsistent at best in the cricket's marquee event. Sri Lanka on the other hand have seen a change in captaincy as well as the retirement of Lasith Malinga from Test Cricket.
As the two-sides embark on a new-four cycle that will culminate with the 2015 ODI World Cup Down Under, the series will show the amount of change for both sides need to move in the right direction. While England appear a stable side with a confident captain and fantastic coach the Lankans will go in as the underdogs with an untested captain, coach and perhaps a bowling attack too.
Dilshan, who has been handed over the reins of the Sri Lankan side after Kumar Sangakkara stepped down from the post, has so far performed remarkably well in the tour games and has also made the right noises about his interest in the job. He left the lucrative IPL mid-way to spend time with the Sri Lankan team and that might in a way rub into his team-mates who upon seeing their captain's desire to get the best result might get inspired enough to lift their games a notch above their standards. However, for the old warhorses Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, it is just a matter of time before they get back in to the Test mould and guide the Sri Lankan batting the way they have been doing all these years.
Dilshan, it will be interesting to see how he approaches batting after being appointed the captain. Will he be in his flambouyant self or get bogged down by the additional responsibility. Tharanga and Samaraweera will have to perform well in the seaming conditions of England for Sri Lanka to post respectable scores.
English batting on the other hand will be bolstered by the return of the maverick Kevin Pietersen who had to return back mid-way from the World Cup after an unbearable hernia problem. But with the likes of Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara breathing down his neck, he will be under a bit of pressure to deliver the goods. Captain Andrew Strauss, will as usual open the batting with his successor in the ODI outfit Alastair cook and the duo make a formidable opening pair. Bell, due to his recent performances is a certainty in the side.
Coming to the bowling, England look a stable and more incisive unit than Sri Lanka who appear a bit venomless on paper after the retirements of Lasith Malinga and legendary Muralitharan. The onus will be on Dilhara Fernando, if he is fit enough to set the tone for the otherwise experienced bowling attack. Herath, will also be under the scanner as his opposite number Graeme Swann, is almost certain to have some bearing on the game.
Anderson, will be happy to be back in the seaming conditions of England and so will be Stuart Broad following his appointment as the new skipper of the T20 team. Tremlett, will also look forward to cement his place in the side after the impressive showing in Australia.
Swann, will be the key as Sri Lankans are good players of spin and if he manages to fool their batsmen, then it will become more easier for English pace-attack to dismantle the Lankan batting unit.
All in all, the game in Cardiff that starts on May 26, should set the tone for the series and both the sides will look forward to start the four-year cycle on a victorious note.