Pitch report: Lord's, London
The pitch is playing rather quicker these days by all accounts and offering assistance for everyone rather than just fancy-dan batsmen looking to get their name on the dangerously overcrowded Lord's honours board.
<b>Established:</b> 1814<br><b>Capacity:</b> 30,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Pavilion End, Nursery End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Middlesex<br><b>Test History:</b> 127 Tests; 50 home wins, 30 away wins, 47 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 7 home wins, 1 away win, 1 neutral win, 1 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tosses:</b> 4 batted first (4 wins); 6 bowled first (1 win, 1 draws, 4 defeats)
<b>Overview</b><br>As the home of English cricket – indeed world cricket – it has been suggested that Lord's inspires the opposition more than it does the hosts. Nevertheless, England have only lost here twice in the last 20 Tests.
Despite the MCC's reputation for stuffiness, the ground has been extensively redeveloped to keep it at the forefront of cricketing venues, and many of the additions – notably the futuristic Media Centre at the Nursery End – are strikingly modern without diminishing the famous venue's historical power.
Further development has been proposed, and a recent objection avoided, as the MCC found agreement on a 'Vision for Lord's'. In the meantime, the ground was used for archery during the London 2012 Olympics.
Between 2006 and 2009 the pitch became something of a batting paradise – despite the infamous slope – producing six straight draws between Australia's 2005 victory and England's three-day defeat of the West Indies in early 2009.
However, the pitch is playing rather quicker these days by all accounts and offering assistance for everyone rather than just fancy-dan batsmen looking to get their name on the dangerously overcrowded Lord's honours board.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>Nearly a year ago, Lord's was the venue for England's 347-run win over Australia in the second Ashes Test. The match ended late on day four, when The Aussies were all out for 235 in their impossible chase of 583.
England won the toss and chose to bat first, with controversy still raging around Stuart Broad's non-walk at Trent Bridge in the previous game, which England won. The chatter seemed to affect them early on, as they lost three wickets for under 30 runs.
But in came Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, the steady heads, and they rescued the knock. Bell scored one of his three tons of the series, while Trott contributed a half century as they took the score to 127 before Trott departed.
Jonny Bairstow then joined Bell and they put on a 144-run stand to the 99 the previous pair added. Bairstow contributed 67 at a strike rate of 45, showing that knuckling down on this deck is a requirement. England eventually made 361.
The visitors did not have anyone save them though, as Graeme Swann took five wickets at two to the over, while Tim Bresnan took two at the top. The Aussies were all out for 128 in less than a day, with Shane Watson top-scoring with 30.
Day three saw England extend their lead significantly thanks to Joe Root's wonderful 180. Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen failed again, but Root held firm alongside first Bresnan and then Bell, who added a fifty to his ton, as England made 349/7 before declaring.
This left the Aussies win an impossible score, but two days to bat. Like in their first innings, they were all out in less than a day, this time also thanks to Swann, who took four wickets. Usman Khawaja and Michel Clarke made fifties in vain.
<b>They Said</b><br>England skipper Alastair Cook after the game: "When it is dry, we've got a world-class spinner in Swanny and the bowlers can reverse it – we're pretty confident in all English conditions." They no longer have Swann, of course.
Michael Clarke lamented: "Our performance with the bat in the first innings was unacceptable. The wicket was very good for batting, we had a great opportunity and we let ourselves down."
Sri Lanka's Prasanna Jayawardene ahead of this game: "It is not easy, not like the sub-continent. We have to adapt to the conditions and we have to adjust our technique also, both when batting and bowling."
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>In the most recent Test, Kevin Pietersen was England's highest run-getter at Lord's, but in his absence that goes to Alastair Cook, closely followed by Ian Bell.
They are the last two lads to have more than 1000 runs here. Bell averages 60 and has four tons, while Cook has three tons and averages 43. Matt Prior is a bit further down the list with 700-odd runs in 12 Tests, while Stuart Broad has a nifty habit of making half tons.
Sri Lanka last played here in June 2011, and Tillakaratne Dilshan made a whopping 193 in their first innings. Before that was 2006, where Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Nuwan Kulasekara and Mahela Jayawardene all played too, and they all made at least a half ton.
Bowling-wise, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are third and fourth on the wicket list here, though Jimmy is significantly ahead, with 61 wickets to 48. Both average under 28, and Broad took a seven-for against New Zealand in May last year. Other than these two, it's slim pickings in terms of experience here, since Swann's retirement.
The Sri Lankans are without the best bowler they had here in 2011, Suranga Lakmal. He has an injury, leaving the visitors with little experience in Tests here. Kulasekara will have to shoulder the burden.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>All five days are supposedly going to be cloudy on some level, though only day three (Saturday) has any real probability of rain. Temperatures will be cool though, around 20 Celsius every day, which should suit England.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>This is a tough one to predict, given Sri Lanka's highly experienced batting order coming up against an England containing three possible debutants. While those players are in good form, this is a pressure debut venue.
The toss winner is likely to bat first, as recent history gives that a 100 percent success rate, and look to bat once and long in order to avoid the slowing of the pitch in the latter days.
England are without a specialist spinner, with Moeen Ali (set to debut) being looked at to fill that role as an all-rounder. Joe Root had success last time out with the ball, but much will be expected of Anderson and Broad once the older ball starts moving.
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