Sri Lanka v England First Test Betting: England need to play out of their skin

Moeen could be value for top bat
Moeen could be value for top bat
Join today

Ed Hawkins previews game one of three in the early hours of Tuesday from Galle and has the hosts as better equipped.

"Even with the toss in their favour, the greatest threat to a home win is the weather. And we're often loathe to start fretting about that"

Sri Lanka v England
Tuesday 6 November 04.30
Live on Sky Sports

Farewell Herath

Sri Lanka say goodbye to Rangana Herath, who has announced this will be his last Test. It is strange timing to say the least, as the hosts are desperate for his experience and wicket-taking ability to stave off an upset.

Herath, 40, says his joints can no longer cope with hauling his rotund body around the outfield or finding the spring to get to the crease and through it. Shame. Herath is second on the wickets list in Test since Muttiah Muralitharan retired. He has a whopping 359. James Anderson is No 1 with 399.

Without him, Sri Lanka could struggle although there is an argument that Dilruwan Perera will fill his shoes rather well. Lakshan Sandakan and Akila Dananjaya are not too shabby although one will probably miss out in game one with Sri Lanka opting for three spinners. If it doesn't turn, Suranga Lakmal is a handful with seam and swing.

Angelo Mathews returns to the squad and offers much-needed middle-order ballast. Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis are also reliable.

England unsure

England's preparations have been hampered by poor weather and it is hard not to reckon they are, the most modern of cricket buzzwords, 'undercooked'. They are also unsure of their best XI, which is never a good sign.

For a start there has been talk of dropping Stuart Broad, No 3 on that wickets list mentioned earlier. Jos Buttler or Ben Foakes will keep wicket in the absence of Jonny Bairstow. Ben Stokes or Moeen Ali could bat at No 3. They might not play three spinners. They are unsure of their best opening combination with Joe Denly and Keaton Jennings struggling for form.

They could also pack their team with all-rounders, adding Chris Woakes and Sam Curran. Jack of all trades? Master of none? Considering historic English struggles in Asia and the state of flux, it would be quite something if they hit the ground running.

Heavy toss bias

The first-innings scores in the last five Tests at Galle read: 287-600-494-281-484. It's a mixed bag. But the key trend here is the toss. In the last 13 results, ten have been won by the side batting first. In July, South Africa were bowled out for 73 batting last.

Heavy toss bias

Sri Lanka are [3.15], England are [3.45] and the draw is [2.46]. In our series preview, we made it clear that the tourists were terrible value as favourites so it won't come as a huge surprise that we will swerve them in game one. Their record on the road is abysmal.

But we can't be too gung ho about Sri Lanka. That's because of a poor weather forecast. Rain is expected on all five days. Even with the toss in their favour, the greatest threat to a home win is the weather. And we're often loathe to start fretting about that.

The best remedy, then, could be just to forget about it and keep stakes sensible. Sri Lanka and Herath are a danger on a wearing Galle pitch and the odds should still be good.

Chandimal's excellent record

Chandimal, who rather slowed up Sri Lanka in the ODI series, is better suited to the long form and Galle is a good ground for him. In his last six matches he has two centuries and two fifties. That's outstanding venue form. The 9/2 (Betfair Sportsbook) that he top scores in the first-innings for Sri Lanka looks like value.

Moeen catches the eye

Joe Root is 5/2 value on the top England bat market for the first dig. He doesn't have much to beat. Still, many will reckon that the odds are too skinny about a man whose 12-month average is way down on a career mark in the 50s. Rory Burns looked organised in the warm-up and the 4s from Sportsbook could see business. Moeen at 6s might be worth a nibble, too, because he is a decent player of spin.

Ed Hawkins P-L

2018: +11.47pts
2017: +12pts
2016: +18.1pts
2015: +38pts
2014: +31.5pts
2013: +25pts
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l

Join today

Read past articles