England’s seam attack – arguably the best and most potent of its type in the world under the conditions that prevailed in Leeds – is ready to be unleashed once more minus the injured Ben Stokes.
Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, waiting in the wings are the impressive Nottinghamshire quickie Jake Ball or Warwickshire all-rounder Chris Woakes who is fresh from a nine-wicket first innings haul against Durham at Edgbaston before being called away for England duty.
The Sri Lankan top order, shorn of a couple of their legends in retired duo Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, looked helpless against the swinging ball while the lateral movement, likely again to be on show in Durham, exposed a frail batting line up with only Kusal Mendis reaching 50.
In captain Angelo Matthews, the tourists have a player capable of launching a counter attack and he is clearly the class act in a battling order desperately short on experience and nous.
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However, the Sri Lankan pace attack is another area for concern with the pacy Dushmantha Chameera joining established seamer Dhammika Prasad on the sidelines with a stress fracture. While Durham is conducive to seam and swing bowling, veteran twirler Rangana Herath stands on the cusp of 300 Test wickets, an outstanding achievement given his orthodoxy and lack of a ‘magic’ ball. The 38-year-old is hardly going to find a dust bowl in the north east, but it was a similar scenario at Headingley and he still bowled with his customary skill and guile to take 2-25 so could top the bowling honours for the visitors.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have been potent forces at Durham in the past, boasting similar records and averages, and both found better rhythm and consistency than Steven Finn in Leeds. Broad narrowly gains the nod in that market as he has a slightly better injury record of late, while we should stay loyal to Alistair Cook in the top batsman market for the hosts.
Cook remains on the verge of 10,000 Test runs and made a classy 160 against the West Indies in one of his three Tests (2009) at this week’s venue. He looked largely untroubled until chasing a wide one in Leeds and also made 50 against the Aussies in 2013 so gains the vote ahead of Joe Root who has only played a sole Test at Durham.