Ed Hawkins argues the weather will be crucial for game one at the RPS in Colombo on Wednesday, with the tourists banking on Sri Lanka's spinners not gripping the ball...
"We would be more confident about laying England for 275 or more. If you exclude innings against Bangladesh and Ireland, that bet was a winner 12 times out of the last 16 in Asia."
Sri Lanka v England
Start time: 09.00GMT
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Sri Lanka are without Lasith Malinga, who is still recovering from injury and without him their pace attack lacks a cutting edge. Shaminda Eranga, the leftie, and the four-game ingénue Lahiru Gamage, are the quickest they've got and they average 33 and, deep breath, 162 respectively. Instead they will rely on spin.
Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath will be expected to tie England in knots during the middle overs. Otherwise you will recognise the superb all-round talents of Angelo Mathews, the skipper. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jaywardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan will have to fire with the bat.
England have had little preparation time after their second warm-up game was washed out. Therefore it would be a surprise if they didn't stick with the major decision of dropping Alex Hales, the opener. Moeen Ali replaced the Nottinghamshire hitter and he responded with a quickfire 50 and three wickets.
Steven Finn and Chris Jordan are expected to get the nod with the new balls in a new-look attack. James Anderson and Stuart Broad have both been ruled out by injury. Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, both starters in that warm-up could fill in, although Ravi Bopara is an option.
As much as England must play spin well they must also bowl it well themselves. James Tredwell is a wily old campaigner and this will be his toughest test. Moeen, rapidly becoming England's MVP, will assist.
England's win percentage over the last five years in 52. But in Asia against the home powerhouses it is just 37.5%. That's six wins from 16. If the weather holds here (and there are five reserve days) England will have to win four from seven. It's a tough ask. Sri Lanka are 1.491/2, England are 3.55/2 and the draw 10.519/2.
Both these sides come into this series low on confidence. England lost to Sri Lanka and India at home in the summer while the hosts were whitewashed by India this month.
Unfortunately for England, Sri Lanka is probably only second worse to India as a spot for recuperation. Conditions are alien. Sri Lanka meanwhile, will reckon England are the perfect opponents to get back on track.
Aside from the knowledge that the hosts should enjoy huge home advantage, there is little we are sure about. Both teams could experiment with one eye on the World Cup and with the rain season in full deluge, the weather forecast makes it impossible to bet with confidence. Rain is forecast for the next five days and although there is a reserve day for this contest, it rather dampens the enthusiasm.
How wet it gets is key. Will it be so damp Sri Lanka's spinners can't grip the ball? Will the moisture make it a shootout between the seamers? Surely rain will favour the chasers?
One could start to reckon England are value at 2.526/4, although it should be remembered that England lost a series in favourable conditions against this outfit only a few months ago. Sri Lanka are 1.645/8. What you might not recall is that England won 3-2 there in October 2007 just before the start of a monsoon season.
The first-innings average at the RPS in Colombo is 252. That does not sound as if runs are guaranteed to flow but in three of the last four first digs 300 or more has been breached. Sri Lanka were responsible for two of them. We would be more confident about laying England for 275 or more. If you exclude innings against minnows like Bangladesh and Ireland, that bet was a winner 12 times out of the last 16 in Asia.
Top Sri Lanka batsman
Sri Lanka are struggling with their opening combination and there have been whispers that Jayawardene could be promoted to open. Apparently, he is very keen to do so. In the last four innings, Dilshan's partners have managed eight runs. Jayawardene is 5.04/1. Dilshan is 4.47/2 and Sangakkara 4.03/1. Mathews, who is outscoring them all, is 5.59/2. Lahiru Thirimanne is no 12.5 shot by the way.
Top England batsman
If Moeen gets the opening slot he is overpriced at 5.39/2, although bear in mind he has been given free rein to bat recklessly. Cook, who top scored in 2007 with 155 runs, is 4.47/2. Jos Buttler, England's top bat in the last 12 months, is overpriced at 10.09/1. Ian Bell and Joe Root will bat at Nos 3 and 4 respectively. Bell is 5.39/2 and Root 6.05/1.
Back Jayawardene for top Sri Lanka batsman 5.04/1
Back Moeen for top England batsman 5.39/2
Lay England for 275 or more first-innings runs 2.26/5
Ed Hawkins P/L
2013: +250.80 (ROI 25%)
To £10 level stakes, based on prices at time of publication