An appetite for test cricket has grown significantly over its three-month hiatus.
AB de Villiers exploits and King Kohli’s dominance on the IPL stage for RCB have made for regular headlines over the past few months, yet it’s the guile and resolve under late-May skies on a green seamer that a seasoned cricket fan has for months yearned for.
The World T20 is now all but a distant memory for England, who turn to the games most classical format seeking redemption for the final over heartbreak of a Carlos Brathwaite masterstroke.
Sri Lanka on the other hand, will head into the first test at Headingley today hoping to replicate the feats of the 2014 series, which saw them triumph convincingly over the hosts in all three formats.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the series will be decided by an ECB initiative, which sees all sides; Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England, accrue points across the three formats throughout the summer.
These points are then tallied up and attributed to an aggregate total that will decide who hoists the trophy at the conclusion of the tour.
Sri Lanka –
The absence of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sanagakkarra from the score sheet will likely prevent any hopes Sri Lanka has of recreating its 2014 fairytale.
Sri Lanka drew both its tour matches against county sides Essex and Leicestershire, and will confront one of the more difficult batting wickets in England during the first test.
An inexperienced top order will be tasked with combating a Jimmy Anderson in-swinger and the seam movement of Stuart Broad on a deck synonymous for assisting fast bowlers, particularly during spring.
Karunaratne and likely Headingly debutant Shanaka were the only Sri Lankan’s to score hundreds in the two game series leading up to the first test.
Perhaps more concerning was the fact that on both occasions the Sri Lankans were heavily outscored by their opposition.
In the case of Essex, a side currently sitting atop the table in the second division, Sri Lanka managed just 254 batting first, before a Tom Westley – Jaik Mickleburgh master class saw Essex pile on 412 for the loss of just four wickets.
I’m not sure whether that says more about Sri Lanka’s batting or bowling.
Though, Sri Lanka can take inspiration from what New Zealand did to England in their last start at Headingley.
Tasked with 455 for victory, Mark Craig and Kane Williamson took a combined six wickets on the final day to draw the two match series and send England into the Ashes with their tails between their legs.
Sri Lankan spinners Siriwardana and Herath will be buoyed by Headingley’s propensity to turn during the last few days.
The two games played at the venue so far this season in the championship, however, have proved ineffective for spinners.
On just one occasion, in the second innings between Yorkshire and Surrey just over a week ago, did a spinner make their mark on the wickets column.
That was Joe Root, claiming the wickets of Kumar Sangakkarra and Steven Davies on the final day.
Adil Rashid is yet to take a wicket for Yorkshire at Headingley this season.
Barely a series goes by without hearing about the English top order and its vacillation.
As Cook approaches yet another milestone wearing the three lions, all eyes will be firmly fixed on his accomplice, Alex Hales.
Having averaged just seventeen in eight innings during England’s triumph over South Africa, Hales’ development as an opening batsman will be an intriguing sub plot to keep an eye on throughout the summer.
Nick Compton is another player who will be scrutinised over every ball he faces against Sri Lanka.
In his first home series since his return to the English side last year, Compton will have the likes of Alex Lyth, Gary Balance and Sam Robson chomping at his heels to get back into the side.
This series should prove a pivotal one in the outcome of his future in an England shirt, his exodus could come as soon as July against Pakistan if he fails to upkeep or improve his current Test Match average of 31.47.
I have no doubt the class player he is, that he will be able to achieve this.
Look no further than Yorkshire duo Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, alongside Captain Cook, as the top run scorers in this series.
So far in the championship Cook has amassed 523 runs in seven innings, while Jonny Bairstow (533 runs in six innings) and Joe Root (240 runs in 3 innings) have both made a memorable start to the season.
England had one of the most successful years of any of the test playing nations last year, winning two series and drawing another.
Their only loss came in a tedious series against Pakistan in the UAE, where spin bowling unsurprisingly proved somewhat of a Kryptonite for the England batting lineup.
Their triumph over South Africa on their own turf comes to mind as the most memorable of England’s 2015/16 victories, and highlights England’s strong reliance on their bowling stocks, in particular, their swing and seam bowlers.
They showed what a force they can be on green-tops both at home and away bowling Australia out for 60 and South Africa for 83 in the same year.
If Sri Lanka is to have any hope in claiming victory, their biggest challenge will undoubtedly be their rearguard action against swing and seam and the way they utilise those conditions themselves through Matthews and Shanaka.