Couch Critic previews the first test match between Sri Lanka and England including best bets from @Olimp_SA
SRI LANKA vs ENGLAND 1st Test, Galle. Thursday 14 Jan @ 06:30
Sri Lanka arrived back on home shores merely a week ago and found an English side already waiting for them. Both tests in the two-match series are to be played at Galle.
Setting the Scene
England had a rather quick, and disruptive, trip to SA but before that had two test series under their belts – beating the visiting West Indies and Pakistan. This time around they will have to show what they can do away from home comforts. Big news out of the camp of the Poms is the void left by Ben Stokes, settling on who holds the gloves and finding their best middle order to accompany captain Root. The English bullies of Wood, Archer, Anderson, Woakes and Broad will also be broken up for this mission abroad and those left will have to work much harder for their sticks on this island than their big island back home.
South Africans will know the look of this Sri Lankan squad well after their recent visit to the Republic. A severely depleted sub-continent side did justice to their flag by battling like lions at times. The squad selected shows a much stronger looking unit but it remains to be seen if everyone is indeed available by the time the toss is done on Thursday morning. At this stage Da Silva, Chandimal and Matthews are all expected to return to action. Having Lakmal back as part of their bowling group is also huge.
How I see it Playing Out
The past two test matches held at this venue showed that the pacemen aren’t going to have it easy. With Sri Lanka hosting England and New Zealand here in the most recent tests, a first innings 342 from England was the highest score across the 8 innings and there was only one other score of 300-plus. Moeen Ali, Akila Dananjaya, Ajaz Patel, Lasith Embuldeniya and Dilruwan Perera have all picked up four or more wickets in an innings here at Galle during those matches.
I’m expecting this to be a bit of a war of attrition for these two teams. England hardly have an all-conquering batting line-up these days and for this trip their bowling contingent will find it tough going. If Sri Lanka have had enough time to regroup and find their fighting legs they could well trip up the Englishmen. A lot will depend on the quality of spin available to the home side as this will be the key to toppling the Poms.
Betolimp Best Bets
The leggie was trusted with the spin duties in Africa. The youngster toiled hard for four wickets in his debut innings and also added his first half century in a baptism of fire. He should play an even bigger role in the more favourable home conditions.
Buttler’s fortunes have often swayed quite violently. With Foakes breathing down his neck I am expecting a big series from Jos. Buttler is one of the best players of spin in the English line-up and as such he has to be a runner in this market.
The spinners should play a big part in this game but it is likely that we could see the wickets shared around in the first innings. The likes of Anderson and Broad should be less effective in these conditions so Curran could just be a viable option here to pitch in with a few pegs.
Dickwella showed glimpses of his top form in SA. The feisty keeper recently talked about learning the balance between his natural aggressive style and balancing it with better shot selection. The lefty also spoke about his hunger to score a test hundred, so I am happy keeping the faith.
Additional Series Outright Plays:
Note, odds quoted are available at the time of writing but are subject to change