Having been literally rolled over inside three days at Headingley, Sri Lanka will face another tough challenge when they come up against England at Durham in the second Test starting on Friday. The Sri Lankan batsmen were all over the place as they just could not deal with the swing the England pace bowlers generated. Scores of 91 and 119 are a fair reflection of their struggles. The bad news for Sri Lanka's batsmen though is that the conditions are only expected to be tougher at Chester-le-Street, where the ball moves even more prodigiously as compared to Headingley. Another trail by swing awaits them.
England will be extremely pleased with the manner in which James Anderson rose to the occasion, and buried the ghost of 2014. For some reason, despite conditions favouring his style of bowling, Anderson did not have a great record at Headingly going into the first Test. That is history now. The England pace spearhead will be high on confidence heading into the second Test, following his ten-wicket demolition of Sri Lanka in a space of a few overs. Anderson was yet again well supported by Stuart Broad, who finished the match with five wickets, including four in the first innings.
England though will be forced to make a change in the bowling department with Ben Stokes being ruled out due to injury. There will be a toss up between Chris Woakes and Jake Ball for his place. Woakes returned with an exceptional 9-for in a recent county clash so that should give him an edge. At the same time, Ball was in the squad before him, so it won't be surprising if he gets the nod as well. The hosts' batting wasn't in great shape apart from Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales at the top. They definitely have some work to do. Nick Compton has admitted he's playing for his place following another low score.
As for Sri Lanka, it would be unfair to expect miracles of them. But, their batsmen need to figure a way out of spending time at the crease so that they can compete to some extent. The time has come for the experienced hands to stand up and make a mark. Dimuth Karunaratne will have the toughest job of all as he will be opening the batting under challenging conditions. He will be under pressure, but Karunaratne has been around international cricket for four seasons now, and must start delivering. A lot will depend on the middle order of Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne.
If you take away the pathetic batting effort, Sri Lanka were not as bad with the ball. In fact, the pacers had the hosts in early trouble, and they had to be rescued by Hales and Bairstow. Dushmantha Chameera, Dasun Shanaka and even Rangana Herath combined well to put England under pressure. The bad news for Sri Lanka though is that Chameera is out of the tour with a fast-bowler related injury, and will be replaced by Suranga Lakmal. In Chameera's absence, the visitors' bowling has definitely been weakened, and England will look to exploit the same. Clearly, another big challenge in the offing for Mathews and his men.
--By A Cricket Analyst