England go into the final Test of the winter with everything to play for. Four losses from four Tests and now they must win to maintain the number one Test spot and save even the smallest amount of face. The key for England is very, very simple: the batting, so good from their second innings at Brisbane through their only innings at the Oval, must rediscover something approximating their form from that period. Despite slipping a bit near the end of the last Test, the fact is that the bowling unit have had as much or more success this winter as at any time in the past six years. They are not the problem and in fact their success in all conditions must be the envy of all other nations. The level of success they have had with the ball means that the batsmen need to perform only a little bit better and England will have a great chance of levelling the series.
Sri Lanka have a lot for which to play as well though. They have not won a series since beating New Zealand at home in 2009 and this would be a major scalp for them. They will be a motivated side and I expect that their middle order will be desperate to cling on to their wickets in the way that only Jayawardene did in the first Test. If they can thwart England’s bowlers and get just one properly big total in the match, England will have very little chance of getting the victory that we need. That will not be an easy feat for Sri Lanka though, even if the pitch is flat. Even without Stuart Broad, England’s attack have proved that they can take wickets in all conditions against all opponents.
The toss will be important again. Given England’s habit of collapsing at the merest hint of turn, batting last could be disastrous, even on a road. Similarly, we have already seen how much Sri Lanka benefited in the first Test from even a fairly modest first innings total. If Strauss can finally find the luck with the coin that has eluded him for the last three Tests, it should be game on. England’s batsmen did not look in bad touch in the last Test; nearly all of them made at least a start with the bat. If, on the first day on a flat pitch, they can finally be persuaded to dig in like Trott, the runs are there. A big score in the first innings and England can boss the game like they did so often last year. Sri Lanka will be praying that England are still a Test away from returning to form.
One thought on “Colombo preview”
You’re spot on. This is a must win Test for England. It doesn’t change a lot in terms of form, and it will not solve the huge problems they have. But psychologically, it will mark a period of much needed recovery. If we can win this, it will at least give us a spark of confidence for the India series. Good piece.