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  • Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Colombo

Strauss in Colombo spotlight

The Preview by David Hopps
April 2, 2012
Match facts
Tuesday, April 3, P Sara Oval
Start time 1000 (0530 BST)

Steven Finn could return to the England side © Getty Images
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Big Picture
Andrew Strauss has said that he has not considered resigning despite England's losing run on the sub continent of four successive Tests and his own mediocre form which, Tests against Australia apart, has gone on for more than two years. An England victory or an innings to restate his worth is sorely overdue.

It is doubtless the case that Strauss has not thought of resignation and the same is true of England's selectors. They are all observing a problem and trusting that it will go away. One of Strauss' strengths as a captain is that he is supremely confident about his rightful place at the centre of things. He can be short of runs and chided for what are seen as overly defensive tactics but even without England's position at the top of the Test rankings, he would probably be perceived as indispensable managerial material. If he threatened to move to the Cayman Islands, it would probably persuade the government to drop the top rate of tax by another 5p.

Strauss' immediate fate might rest on a difficult selection. England need to decide whether pace or spin is their best chance of rescuing their Test credentials. Shane Warne took 11 in his one appearance here while the wicket-taking list is headed by an unsurprising name: Muttiah Muralitharan claimed 52 wickets in nine Tests. England have not played here since Sri Lanka's inaugural Test in 1982 when Derek Underwood and John Emburey combined to take 14 wickets.

Form guide
Sri Lanka: WWDWD
England: WLWLD

Players to watch
It would be so easy to say Andrew Strass. The focus on his batting will be considerable. But no matter how conducive to spin this pitch turns out to be, an England victory would probably be fired by Steve Finn's ability to transfer some of the fire he showed in the ODIs against Pakistan in the UAE into a sweltering Test arena. For Sri Lanka, Rangana Herath has achieved No. 1 status after taking 12 wickets in Galle. Superficially, he just looks to be another solid slow left-armer with a decent cricketing brain. Are we missing something?

Team news
England's dilemma is how to replace the injured Stuart Broad and also get a third seam bowler into the side. They could variously include Bresnan and Finn for Broad and Samit Patel (which would mean a weaker batting line-up), for Broad and Panesar (ignoring the importance of spin at this ground), or bring in Finn and retain the two-seamer approach. For Sri Lanka, Angelo Mathews returns for Dinesh Chandimal, whose reckless batting in Galle was one of Sri Lanka's less impressive features. Mathews has recovered from calf trouble but he is not expected to bowl. Chanaka Welegedara, a left-arm seamer, claimed just one wicket in Galle and has been omitted because of a strained groin.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Lahiru Thirimanne, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jaywardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene, 8 Suraj Randiv, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Dhammila Prasad, 11 Suranga Lakmal.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steve Finn.

Pitch and conditions
The P Sara Oval groundsman, N S Silva, has said he thinks the match will go five days but England have not achieved that on their recent travels. There have been 11 results from the 15 Tests played at the venue, the last of which was in August 2010, when India chased down 257. Suraj Randiv took nine wickets in that match and spin has a good record at the ground.

Stats and trivia

  • The full title of the P Sara Oval is the P Saravanamuttu Oval. It was named after Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, a former civil servant and the first president of the Sri Lanka board.
  • The stadium underwent a modest revamp with the addition of an air conditioned building equipped with more comfortable seating and Wi-Fi. A media room has since been added and the stadium can hold 15,000.
  • There are arguably more crows seen at the P Sara Stadium than any other Test ground.
  • Drunken fans caused a storm in 2010 when they heckled India'sa 12th man Yuvraj Singh as "water boy".
  • One of the most memorable fast-bowling bursts in Test history took place in a neutral Test between Pakistan and Australia in 2002 when Shoaib Akhtar dismissed Ricky Ponting, Mark waugh and Steve Waugh in the same over.

    Quotes
    "There are five or six teams in the world playing really good cricket now, so on any given day they can beat each other, but England have set the standards."
    Mahela Jayawardene, is gleeful about the prospect of a pacy pitch

    "I'm watching Bear Grylls cope with the frigid French Alps before bedtime. If it snows tomorrow in Colombo I shall be the man to turn to..."
    Graeme Swann, cooped up in his Colombo hotel room, tries to keep the lighthearted mood.

    David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

    © ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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