Sri Lanka bowlers prepared for more toil
Sri Lanka's quicks will work to the blueprint they had set down in the UAE, as they attempt to leave England with their first Test win since 2006, Angelo Mathews said on the eve of the Headingley Test. The fast bowlers toiled for long spells against Pakistan in January, but found success in limiting scoring options, and consistently hitting a good length outside off stump.
The pitch at Headingley should also be more responsive than the surfaces Sri Lanka encountered on that tour. England's captain, Alastair Cook, predicted that a little more grass on the surface should make for more pace and bounce than Lord's pitch offered, and the low cloud forecast for much of the match may also make conditions conducive to lateral movement.
According to Mathews, Sri Lanka's captain, Sri Lanka will nevertheless aim first to be consistent, before turning to creativity.
"I don't think there will be a departure from bowling line and length," he said."We'll try and stick to our basics. If needed, we'll try to change our plans and tactics a little bit, but all in all our strength is to keep it line and length and bowl in those good areas. But Test cricket is all about challenging the oppositions. It's about thinking a step further than the batsman. If you have to make those tactical changes we will."
A draw at Headingley would represent a moral victory for Sri Lanka, who have already sewn up the limited overs series, but Headingley has been one of the most consistent result-venues in the world, in recent years. Though Sri Lanka are seemingly outgunned in English conditions, Mathews issued characteristic statements on his side's positive "intent".
"I think the pitch gives us a chance as well. We've got some good seamers. Rather than make it a flat wicket, it's always good to have a sporting wicket where both teams have their chances. Whatever we do first - bat or bowl - we've got to do it well and set the tone for the game.
"If we can win the game, that's what we're looking for. There is a bit of grass on the wicket, but you can't say anything until tomorrow. You can never predict a wicket 100%. We've just got to go out there, play positive cricket, and try to win. In those little situations where we have to toughen up - there will be so many situations like that over the next five days."
There has been some ill-feeling between the teams at various points in the tour, particularly following the mankad dismissal which Sri Lanka effected in the ODI series, and those sentiments were expected to continue on the field during the Tests.
Words were exchanged between bowlers, fielders and batsmen during the tense final session at Lord's, but Mathews downplayed the notion that on-field relations were uncommonly frosty.
"We play it hard. England play it hard and we play it hard. When you pass that white line, it's about trying to win. We've got a good relationship with England, and the players.
"At Lord's bowlers from both sides were hitting the deck hard - not giving the batsmen opportunity to score freely. That's the attitude you've got to take into a game, regardless of who you play. You have to make sure your intent is clear: to get the batsman out."
Mathews also added his voice to murmurs of frustration from the Sri Lanka camp that they will only play two Tests in England when the Future Tours Programme had prescribed three. "We would like to play more Test cricket in England, in Australia, and in South Africa. We've got only two Test matches, but we'll try to make the most of it."