Having taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, England will go into the final Test at Lord's high on confidence, and seeking to complete a whitewash. Unlike in 2014, when Sri Lanka pulled off a historic, yet surprise victory, England have been all over their opponents in the current series. After inflicting an innings defeat in the opening Test, the Englishmen went on to clinch the second Test and, with it the series, with ease, despite the fact that the Sri Lankan batsmen showed some fight in their second innings in the match. They will be keen to avoid a whitewash.
In both the matches so far, it has been England's bowling that has done the damage. On surfaces that have been conducive to their type of bowling, the hosts have been completely dominant. James Anderson has led the way with bucketful of wickets across the two Tests, keeping the pressure on even when some of the others have struggled. Another good performance at Lord's, and he would be a front runner for the man of the series award. Anderson has been well supported by Stuart Broad. While the latter may not have picked up as many wickets as his senior partner, as a combination, they have allowed Sri Lanka little breathing space.
The batting has also done rather well under the conditions. Alex Hales has got into the 80s in both Tests. What has been impressive is the manner in which he has curbed his natural, aggressive instincts. The next step forward will obviously be a Test hundred. Speaking of tons, Jonny Bairstow got one in the first Test and Moeen Ali in the second. Again, the big runs have come from unexpected corners. Joe Root, as usual, has been fluent. With no pressure, England would expect skipper Alastair Cook, who hasn't done much in the series, to come good. More significantly, a lot of eyes would be on Nick Compton and fast bowler Steven Finn, who haven't looked in great form.
The series may be gone, but Sri Lanka will want to avoid a whitewash at every cost. For that, they will need to carry on the fight they displayed at Durham. Dinesh Chandimal, after three successive failures, returned to form with a sparkling century. He will be among the key batsmen for Sri Lanka as they look to avoid a whitewash. Skipper Angelo Mathews also batted exceedingly well in the second innings of that game to ensure the visitors avoided a second consecutive innings defeat. Along with Chandimal, Sri Lanka will also depend heavily on him in the batting. If the experienced hands can stand up, it certainly will make a difference.
The problem for Sri Lanka is that they have too many struggling batsmen and bowlers. In spite of all his experience, Dimuth Karunaratne has looked nowhere near comfortable out in the middle. He needs to stand up for the team. Equally poor has been the performance of Lahiru Thirimanne, who just doesn't look the part in Test cricket. Kusal Mendis and Kaushal Silva have also struggled. In the bowling, Shaminda Eranga was totally off colour, and failed to make any kind of an impact. Perhaps, Lanka may go in with the inexperienced talent of Dasun Shanaka. Whatever they do, the Lankans will need to be at their very best to outdo a rampant England.
--By A Cricket Analyst