Ed Hawkins says the two teams appear evenly matched but there is little justification for England being so short favourites at cloudy Lord's on Saturday...
"Although there has to be a concession that Sri Lanka have not dominated, or even performed, in the manner we expected, the prices are still wrong"
England v Sri Lanka
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Chris Jordan is fast becoming England's new talisman and it would be a surprise if he was not named in the Test squad. Jordan took five wickets for 29 to rout Sri Lanka for just 67 in Manchester and give the home side a 2-1 lead. James Anderson and James Tredwell also claimed two wickets apiece. Alastair Cook, fit again after a groin problem, said the 10-wicket stroll was down to his players "putting their necks on the line for me". Indeed, after the horrors of the winter England are slowly getting back to their feet.
Cook reckoned England had caught Sri Lanka napping at Old Trafford and he was right. It was clear the tourists reckoned with the poor weather forecast there wasn't going to be much play. So they were not mentally right when, within an hour the covers were off, they'd lost the toss and Anderson and Jordan were steaming in. Their batting was, frankly, hopeless and there was a marked lack of application in contrast to their 'dig-in for victory' approach at Durham. Sri Lanka picked two spinners last time out and will probably do so again. Perhaps it is worth giving Ajantha Mendis's mystery spin a try. He was in the original squad and is being kept out by Rangana Herath, who wasn't.
Overall the average first-innings score at Lord's is 232. But we need to narrow the study period to understand better the nature of the current surface since those stats go way back to 1972. In the last 10, the average is 244. More than 250 has only been breached four times. There is no toss bias to speak of. With batting conditions tricky - the weather forecast says cloud cover pretty much all day - and two sides prone to low totals, laying 260 or more at 2.111/10 could be smart.
This series started with England considered strong favourites and three games in that assertion seems justified considering they will secure the prize if they win at HQ. But we won't be backing them. We began the series with the assertion that the prices were wrong. And although there has to be a concession that Sri Lanka have not dominated, or even performed, in the manner we expected, the prices are still wrong. So, let's say we agree that Sri Lanka are not as superior to England as we thought. In fact, they appear well matched. Both teams have bowlers who can wreak havoc if conditions are right. Both teams have batting line-ups who are prone to stunning collapse. There is not much to split them. England are 1.875/6 and Sri Lanka are 2.1211/10. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Sri Lanka are the bet.
Top England Batsman
Cook hit 119 in the last game England played against Sri Lanka at Lord's. He got a start, too, against New Zealand in a poor batting display which led to defeat by New Zealand last year. Cook, who is 4.03/1, has the best average of any current England player at the venue in the last ten years and his red inker last time will have boosted his confidence. We wouldn't be surprised to see him get a score.
Top Sri Lanka Batsman
There is ground form for Mahela Jaywardene and Dinesh Chandimal to cling to. Jayawardene made 79 in a six-wicket win - Sri Lanka have won three of their last four ODI at Lord's - over England in July 2011. But Chandimal stole the show with an unbeaten 105. They are 4.57/2 and 6.05/1 respectively. Kumar Sangakkara is 3.814/5 and is probably worth taking on at such skinny odds.