England v Sri Lanka 1st Test: Hosts’ middle order key, but draw is likely
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | May 17, 2016
England v Sri Lanka
- First Test of three
- Thursday, May 19th
- Play starts: 11:00 BST
- Headingley, Leeds
- Live on Sky Sports 2
England’s in-form batsmen unlikely to prevent draw
After a fortnight of good weather in the UK, the first Test between England and Sri Lanka couldn’t have come at a worse time with rain forecast for the first four days at Headingley, so a draw at 19/10 with Coral is very tempting to take.
There is at least expected to be some play, though, and two home talents are itching to itching to get on the wicket to continue their fine recent form, in Yorkshire duo Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.
The two rising stars have started the county season in incredible form, both hitting double centuries already, and the vice captain is favourite at 11/4 to be top England batsman in the first innings while the wicketkeeper is 7/1.
Root and Bairstow to rekindle partnership
Speaking recently, Bairstow said: “Coming back home is obviously very special as Headingley has a big place in my heart, as it does for every Yorkshireman,”. He also stated scoring a century at this ground would be top of his bucket list.
On club and country teammate Root, Bairstow added: “He has been fantastic over recent years – you only have to look at the stats and the way he has gone about his business – and hopefully he and I can spend a lot of time in the middle together, not only this summer but for many years to come.
“Having batted with him since we were about 12, out partnership is a pretty natural one now, it’s not something we have to think about or plan too much. We know how the other one operates, how they run and the abilities they possess, so it’s great to be in the middle at the same time.”
Cook to continue fine form
Captain Alastair Cook, meanwhile, will be keen to add to his record total of 28 Test hundreds, and has also been in fine form this county season with Essex, topping the Division Two batting averages after hitting three centuries in just four matches. That is despite having initial issues with his new helmet.
Cook is a terrific 7/2 to be best England batsman in the first innings, while his opening partner Alex Hales has been given another chance to impress and is a 5/1 shout.
The returning Nick Compton is a 9/2 chance, and James Vince is 13/2 on his Test debut, having previously impressed for his nation in Twenty20 Internationals.
Anderson can pip Broad to be best bowler
In terms of bowling, Test world number one Stuart Broad tops the first innings market for England at 5/2, though has not been in the best of form for county Nottinghamshire this season from three matches.
James Anderson, on the other hand, has looked back to his best, averaging 20.75 and taking 12 wickets, so is a more enticing 11/4 chance.
Steven Finn (10/3) is set to return to the fold after spells out through injury, with all-rounder Ben Stokes (4/1) and Moeen Ali (5/1) also set to start, while uncapped Nottinghamshire medium pacer Jake Ball is likely to be 12th man.
Lions must improve on form
Sri Lanka have been hit with the news that bowler Dhammika Prasad, who helped his nation to a Test series win at Headingley two years ago, is out of the opening match after injuring his shoulder in a warm-up match against Essex.
The Lions, however, have not looked in good touch in either of their two tour games, drawing to both Division Two teams Essex and usual whipping boys Leicestershire, and would likely have lost had there been an extra day.
Their batsman have been most impressive, as opener Dimuth Karunaratne and Dasun Shanaka have both recorded hundreds, and so are respective 5/1 and 9/1 chances to get the highest first innings totals for the tourists.
Higher profile batsmen Dinesh Chandimal (3/1), Angelo Mathews (7/2) and Kaushal Silva (11/2) will be hoping to give their side some pride, though.
Herath to be best with the ball
In the bowing department, veteran spinner Rangana Herath is the clear favourite to grab the most wickets in the first innings for Sri Lanka at 5/2, while Mathews is out at 4/1.
Sri Lanka’s South African coach Graham Ford said: “As we have gone along players have started to find their feet and find a bit of form. Every day, there is someone new who is starting to look like he’s feeling a bit more settled in English conditions.
“Hopefully with a bit more work the boys will have some good belief about what they can do. It is going to be about mental toughness and handling pressure when the Test starts on Thursday.”
If you do fancy one of the teams to claim an unlikely win, then England are the 8/15 favourites and Sri Lanka are out at 10/1.
Coral’s top tip: With weather set to play a big part at Headingley, back a draw at 19/10.