SRI LANKA VS ENGLAND, 2018
Cricbuzz Staff •
Rangana Herath has the chance to rise up to the seventh spot amongst the leading wicket-takers in Tests © Getty
How do you look at the future, yet forlornly look back in time? Ask Sri Lanka and England.
England have had their dose only recently, waving an emotional goodbye to Alastair Cook, their greatest Test batsman and former captain. It was a week that was dominated by nostalgia, and it culminated in a happy fairy tale at the Oval. But it also presented a scary future for Joe Root’s side – someone needed to step into those massive shoes, and quick.
Sri Lanka, too, get ready to bid goodbye to their own unassuming superstar. Rangana Herath – Test cricket’s last connection with the 20th century – will play his last game at the same place he played his first, way back in 1999.
And while Galle will celebrate the left-armer’s fabulous journey, the future will only look more uncertain for the Sri Lankan team that’s rapidly losing relevance in world cricket. Their biggest match-winner since Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement will be walking away, and there’s no clear successor to replace him.
It could also be goodbye to another. The Galle international stadium, which has become synonymous with Herath, could also witness its last game, with reports that the authorities prefer a newer, swankier stadium that adheres to heritage laws, elsewhere in the city.
Goodbyes aside, it’s also the time for hellos. England could introduce Test cricket to four new faces over the course of the series. In the first Test itself, with a potential long-term replacement for Cook the focal point. The rest of England’s batting order, forever changing during the India series, will also be followed closely, with Moeen Ali’s audition set to continue at number three.
Sri Lanka have no new faces in their line-up, but will rely mainly on their mastery over home conditions to overcome England. More importantly, they will try and tap into the outpouring of emotion over the impending retirement of Herath, and push themselves to give the veteran the perfect good bye. Herath himself will be striving for that, and that should make him doubly dangerous.
There is one element threatening to make the event a total non-event – the weather. Five days of heavy downpour is forecast for the Test. Herath’s swansong could be a literal damp squib.
When: Sri Lanka vs England, 1st Test, 4:30 AM GMT, 10 AM Local Time
Where: Galle International Stadium
What to expect: Rain in the lead-up to the Test makes the pitch a little hard to predict, but it’s safe to say that it will help the spinners significantly. Lots of rain expected over the five days.
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka will look to beef their team up with spinners, with Akila Dhananjaya and Dilruwan Perera expected to partner Rangana Herath.
Probable XI: Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (C), Angelo Mathews, Dananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Akila Dananjaya, Rangana Herath
Rory Burns will open the batting alongside Keaton Jennings, who will hope for better returns following a disappointing series against India. Bairstow misses out with injury, meaning his spot will go to either Ben Foakes or Chris Woakes. Jack Leach and Adil Rashid are expected to be the frontline spinners.
Probable XI: Rory Burns, Keaton Jennings, Moeen Ali, Joe Root (C), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes/Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Jack Leach, James Anderson.
Did you know:
– The last 21 Tests in Sri Lanka have all yielded a result. The last Test which ended in a draw at Galle was in 2013, nine matches ago
– Rangana Herath needs one more wicket to become the third bowler to take 100 Test wickets at a venue after Muralitharan (Galle, SSC, Kandy) and James Anderson (Lord’s)
– If England give caps to both Rory Burns and Joe Denly, it will be the first instance of two debutants opening for England in a Test since 1937
What they said:
“It is a huge challenge for seam bowlers out here but when you have a good day here you get more satisfaction than bowling on a green seamer in England in April. When you’re dripping with sweat, covered in mud, you know you’ve had a hard day, I think you get more out of that. You’ve put in the hard yards for the team.” – James Anderson