After a bitter 2-0 defeat in South Africa, Sri Lanka’s cricketers fly home on Friday, but with thoughts of vengeance when it comes to the coming series against England.
Thanks to a dynamic, fast-paced game plan with the bat that saw the sweep and reverse sweep used aggressively against the spinners and the home side pretty much wilting in response, Joe Root’s side won 3-0 on the island in late 2018.
The experience had a profound impact on Sri Lanka, according to Mickey Arthur, head coach of Sri Lanka since the end of 2019, and although his injury-plagued side could not cope with the pace and bounce of the South African rapids at the Highveld recently, he believes it will be different in the first test starting next Thursday in Galle.
“I think Sri Lanka were hit hard by the 3-0 loss to England two years ago,” Arthur told The Guardian. “They weren’t expecting it.
But we will definitely be prepared for any type of repeat this time. We know we also have to box smart.
In these circumstances, I’m sure our guys are far more technically competent than they are against a fast, bouncing ball. When they return to their own circumstances, they grow a bit: they get bigger, stronger, stronger. They know what they have to do.’
Sri Lanka has played only one home series since England’s last visit, despite all the positivity of Arthur – typical of a coach who lived and breathed every moment when he was in charge in his native South Africa as well as Australia and Pakistan -: a 1-1 draw with New Zealand in 2019, when the tourists equalized with an innings win in Colombo.
This time around, Arthur is keeping tight-lipped about the strategy, but it’s not difficult to guess that the Roots side is likely to face an attack that will challenge finger spinners Lasith Embuldeniya and Dilruwan Perera on either side of the bat, with a touch of mystery offered by Sri Lanka’s highly-rated new wrist spinner Wanindu Hasaranga.
I suspect the tide will turn a bit, I actually know it will,”I suspect the tide will turn a bit, in fact I know it will,”
“However, we need to play well against their spinners.
When I was with them, Dom Bess made his debut against Pakistan in 2018 and has come on strongly since then.
I watched Jack Leach a lot too – my previous teams always seemed to be playing Somerset – and he’s a very good bowler.
Typical Sri Lankan conditions will be.
Sri Lanka, recovering from 54 for three in the first test to put 396 on the scoreboard and causing a collapse of nine for 84 with the ball in the second test, was not without moments of brilliance in South Africa.
Confidence also comes from the return of experienced batsmen after their groin and hamstring injuries, Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews, respectively.
England also lost Moeen Ali to Covid (19) – the all-rounder was the team’s best wicket-taker with 18 alongside Jack Leach two years ago – and Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer also rested ahead of India’s subsequent tour, alongside Rory Burns, who is out due to paternity, and Ollie Pope, who is yet to return to fitness after shoulder surgery.
Arthur said, “I don’t think England will ever take us lightly.
Rest and rotation is just the way of the world. You wouldn’t want to break Jofra’s back in Galle and Stokes has had a tough time [after the death of his father].
I know [head coach]Chris Silverwood well and they won’t be underprepared.”
Another familiar face for Arthur in the England line-up is batting consultant Jacques Kallis, with whom he worked for five years when in charge of South Africa.
“I didn’t think I would come face to face with Mark Boucher [South Africa’s head coach] and Jacques within a week! Jacques has a wealth of experience to draw on and when he talks, the boys listen. Any English batsman will certainly have something to learn from him.
Can the presence of Kallis get Root in shape after the captain failed to score a century in his first calendar year in international cricket? “He’s still a hell of a cricketer,” Arthur replied. “I’m sure the runs will come … But not until they get to India.”