After England’s Ashes humiliation over the winter, the first Test against Sri Lanka represents a new start for Alistair Cook’s side. With a number of well-known names no longer involved with the national side there will be a fresh look to the hosts with a handful of players set to make their Test debuts.
The visitors are Sri Lanka, a team on a roll after their win over England in the recent one-day series and their recent T20 World Cup triumph. Keep reading for our preview of the first Test.
England looking to bounce back after Ashes thrashing
It’s been a tough few months for England. A 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Australia was just the beginning of their problems as England then lost coach Andy Flower and talented batsman Kevin Pietersen. With Graeme Swann also having retired it will be a new-look England team that starts the first test at Lord’s.
Much has changed since the final defeat in Sydney, with new coach Peter Moores set to give newcomers Sam Robson, Chris Jordan and Moeen Ali their Test debuts. And, while not a newcomer, Liam Plunkett’s last Test for England was seven years ago.
There will be some steady hands to balance the fresh talent. Matt Prior and Stuart Broad haven’t played much first class cricket this summer but will feature alongside captain Cook and Ian Bell, recently named as England’s cricketer of 2013.
Sri Lanka relishing test after controversial one-day clash
With a five Test series against India to follow later in the summer, Sri Lanka represent awkward opponents. The tourists come into the match on a high after their 3-2 win in the one day series between the two countries, the final match proving to be particularly tetchy after the controversial dismissal of Jos Buttler.
The Islanders are also in confident mood following their win in the ICC World T20 in Bangladesh.
The tourists boast the mighty batting pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara who will play their fourth Test together at Lord’s. Jayawardene scored centuries in each of his first two appearances and averages over 75 at this ground although it’s worth remembering that Sri Lanka have still to win at Lord’s in six Tests stretching back to their 1984 debut.
The tourists have already run into controversy even before a Test ball has been bowled and there is a clear edge to this contest. England will be determined to demonstrate that they are on the road to recovery after the Ashes debacle while Sri Lanka are tough and unforgiving opponents.
The series may rest upon how Sri Lanka cope with England’s pacemen. Jayawardene and Sangakkara should be equal to the challenge but that their younger colleagues might struggle in alien conditions. A lack of first-class match practice could also hamper some of England’s team while a lot will depend on how quickly the three home debutants settle into the rigours of Test match cricket.
Sri Lanka look more relaxed and settled than their opponents and so represent excellent value at 7/2 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
The Roy Hodgson era begins on Saturday as the former West Brom coach takes charge of England for the first time. His first outing is a tricky away fixture in Norway who are an excellent 12/5 chance to give our boys ‘one hell of a beating’.
The Champions League final takes centre stage this Saturday as Bayern Munich face Chelsea. If Chelsea can manage to scrape a side together – remember that many of their first choice players are injured or suspended – they are 10/3 to win their first European Cup. Bayern Munich have home advantage but were humbled 5-2 by Borussia Dortmund in last week’s German Cup final.
Chelsea face Liverpool in the Wembley showpiece and the Blues are the 7/5 favourites.
The FA Cup reaches the semi-final stage this weekend with two local derbies in prospect. Liverpool play Everton on Saturday and while the Reds may be the 6/4 favourites, Everton are the form team. I fancy David Moyes’ side to prevail at 15/8.
The battle to avoid the drop from the Premier League continues this weekend with a vital game at Molineux. Struggling Wolves welcome Bolton and after Wanderers’ win over Blackburn last weekend, there’s some value in the visitors at 19/10.
The battle for the Premier League title continues this weekend with Manchester City once again facing a tougher test than rivals Manchester United.
City travel to Stoke City in Saturday evening’s late kick-off and the home side are excellent value at 5/1 to put a dent in City’s title hopes. United host Fulham on Monday evening and are just 1/4 to win.
Last Sunday saw excellent wins for both Liverpool and Arsenal. Liverpool picked up their first trophy under Kenny Dalglish by winning the Carling Cup after Arsenal had earlier rallied from 2-0 down to record a stunning 5-2 victory over Spurs.
The pair meet at Anfield in Saturday’s early kick-off and Arsene Wenger’s side are good value to win at 11/4. The home side can be backed at 21/20.
The Carling Cup final is this weekend’s big match as Liverpool face Cardiff City at Wembley. Kenny Dalglish’s side are the 2/5 favourites to win the Cup for the first time since 2003. It’s Cardiff’s first appearance in the League Cup final and the Bluebirds can be backed at 15/2.
It’s FA Cup fifth round weekend this season with several teams desperate for silverware.
Chelsea’s Andre Villas-Boas’ job could depend on winning a cup this season and his side are 3/10 to beat improving Birmingham at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.