Sri Lanka seek series win in landmark Test
Colombo: Sri Lanka hope to celebrate 30 years in Test cricket by toppling England from the number one ranking when the second and final Test starts in Colombo on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka, who won the first Test in Galle by 75 runs, are determined to scalp the tourists again at the P Sara Oval and clinch their first series victory since 2009 when they beat New Zealand 2-0 at home.
Andrew Strauss`s spin-wary England will slip to number two behind South Africa if they lose or draw the Test on a traditionally sporting Oval wicket that offers assistance to both batsmen and bowlers.
It was at the same venue that Sri Lanka played their inaugural Test in February 1982 against an England side led by Keith Fletcher, which won by seven wickets inside four days.
Strauss will look for a similar result from the tourists, but his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahela Jayawardene wants to settle for nothing less than a win in the landmark Test.
"I`ll be very proud to be on the field on Tuesday and even prouder if we can claim a series victory," said Jayawardene, who hit a brilliant 180 in the Galle Test to put his side on top.
It was a morale-boosting win for sixth-ranked Sri Lanka, who have struggled in recent times in Test cricket following the retirement of their world bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan.
The Galle victory was only their second, and the first at home, in 18 Tests since Muralitharan quit in July 2010 with a record 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets.
The other win came in December, when Tillakaratne Dilshan`s men thumped South Africa by 208 runs in Durban, but went on to lose the series 2-1.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who claimed nine wickets against South Africa, destroyed England in Galle with six wickets in each innings to earn the man of the match award.
Jayawardene was delighted with the way 34-year-old Herath has shaped up and was confident the spinner will continue to build on his 132 wickets from 36 Tests so far.
"Herath has been around a long time and is a class act," the skipper said. "He`s the most experienced bowler I have right now and he`s taken the responsibility to shoulder the attack."
Sri Lanka will be bolstered by the return of all-rounder Angelo Mathews, who missed the first Test with a calf injury, but left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara has been ruled out with a groin strain.
England, meanwhile, were left to ponder a new bowling combination after Stuart Broad returned home for assessment on a calf injury he sustained in the first Test.
Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn are standing by to replace Broad, but both could play if England decide to drop spinner Monty Panesar and leave Samit Patel to share the spin attack with Graeme Swann.
England are desperate for a turnaround after their fourth consecutive Test defeat in Galle, following the 3-0 series hammering by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
While Pakistani spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman claimed a combined haul of 43 wickets in the UAE series, Herath and off-spinner Suraj Randiv grabbed 18 of the 20 wickets in Galle.
Jonathan Trott`s determined 112 in the second innings and Ian Bell`s 52 in the first were the only signs of resistance by the tourists against the turning ball, while Strauss is struggling to find form.
The England captain has gone 23 innings without adding to his 19 Test centuries, averaging a poor 28.52, and has managed just one three-figure knock in his past 48 innings.