Ed Hawkins previews the final Sir Lanka v England Test match of the series from Galle, which starts early on Friday, and says the hosts are a bet if batting first...
"The Galle surface is not the same one which was used for the first Test. However, after hot and dry weather, it is expected to take prodigious turn from ball one"
Sri Lanka v England
Friday 22 January 04:30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Sri Lanka boost batting
Sri Lanka, who batted like they needed a bell in the ball in the first Test, have gone to Specavers and found a reshuffle. Out go skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis. In to the squad come Roshen Silva and Oshada Fernando.
Karunartane's finger injury, sustained in South Africa, has not healed sufficiently while Mendis has made four consecutive ducks. Lahiru Thirimanne, who got a ton in the second innings in Galle, will open.
Their strength is the middle order of Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews, followed by unpredictable Niroshan Dickwella. They will also hope Dasun Shanaka and Wanindu Hasaranga can produce a couple of whirlwind cameos.
Suranga Lakmal is set to play with Asitha Fernando making way. That strengthens their bowling but spin will be key and Dilruwan Perera and Lasith Embuldeniya have shown they can trouble England.
Possible XI Kusal, Thirimanne, Fernando, Chandimal, Mathews, Dickwella, Shanaka, Hasaranga, Dilruwan, Lakmal, Embuldeniya
England are also set to make changes as they keep one eye on the blockbuster series fast-approaching in India. That means they could change their entire pace attack with James Anderson likely to return to his leader role.
Anderson could be joined by Chris Woakes and Olly Stone as Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Mark Wood are rested. There is, however, no room for Moeen Ali who has been declared not match-fit. Joe Root may be required to bowl more overs than he did in the first game.
Although England will be buoyed by the seven-wicket success in game one, they will be aware they were gifted first-innings wickets. More instructive is the second-innings shows of both teams.
Possible XI Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, Root, Lawrence, Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Anderson, Leach, Stone
The Galle surface is not the same one which was used for the first Test. However, after hot and dry weather, it is expected to take prodigious turn from ball one. We could be looking at some skinny first-innings scores for both teams. There should be cheap lays available from 150 or more to 200 or more. We are still keen on the team batting first despite England busting the trend. It's now 11 wins in 17 for the team batting first. No rain is forecast for the duration of the Test.
Back side batting first
Sri Lanka are 2.427/5, England 2.265/4 and the draw is 6.6011/2. The latter should be considerably bigger - each of the last 12 have produced results.
As we said, the flip is still key and a first-innings score of 250 is likely to be more than competitive. So does that mean we keep faith with Sri Lanka if they bat first? Yes.
Had Sri Lanka batted merely poorly, instead of producing one of the most shockingly inept Test performances ever seen, in the first dig they may well have gone on to win. A total of 235 (instead of 135) would have put England under significant pressure on a turning pitch.
If the hosts bat first their price should hold at 2.206/5. England will go odds-on if they bat first and they would rate a perfectly acceptable bet at around 1.9010/11. England are much improved for the run after the first Test if an away series so we have no worries taking a short price.
Joe Root has been price-boosted to 13/5 for top England first-innings bat. On win rate it is not value so we swerve, particularly as he is going for back-to-back wins.
The prices that catch the eye are Jos Buttler at 7s and Dan Lawrence at 10s. We thought Sportsbook would have rectified that latter price by now so they are obviously willing to lay it.
For Sri Lanka, take a chance on big numbers lower down the order. A big score may not be required. Dickwella, Shanaka and Wanindu all fit the bill at 10/1, 14/1 and 20/1.
With spinners to the fore it could be wise to be splitting stakes across the four main threats for man of the match. Dilruwan and Embuldeniya are 11/1 and 14/1 while Dom Bess and Jack Leach are 10/1 and 14/1.
Can England improve in Sri Lanka? This week on Cricket...Only Bettor
Ed Hawkins P-L
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. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l & COB Best Bets year end