Second Test preview: England v Sri Lanka

England

The first Test ebbed and flowed – and proved boring in parts – for the bulk of five days at Lord's, before a cliffhanger final session foreshadowed what will be an intriguing piece in Leeds.

The first Test ebbed and flowed – and proved boring in parts – for the bulk of five days at Lord's, before a cliffhanger final session foreshadowed what will be an intriguing piece in Leeds.

Sri Lanka tail-ender Nuwan Pradeep's nervy defiance and, more recently, England captain Alastair Cook's public lamentation of ongoing criticism has certainly thickened the plot, too.

Cook will have no-one else to blame if a century, at least, does not dawn at Headingley. Without a three-figure vigil for more than 20 innings, now is the time for the left-hander to combat Warne's talk with staunch walk.

If afforded the opportunity to declare again, Cook would do well sooner rather than later. These tentative decisions, coupled with near impossible targets is not becoming of an English Test skipper cut of a different cloth.

Chief whip Giles Clarke's preferences aside, Cook at least has a rather settled XI at his disposal. The selection of debutants Gary Ballance and Chris Jordan paid off handsomely last week – and it's far too soon to be calling for the Australian-born Sam Robson's head.

The recently-retired Graeme Swann snared all of 10 wickets the last time England visited Leeds for a Test match. This telling statistic hasn't forced the call-up of a specialist spinner this time. Budding all-rounder Moeen Ali must, instead, again prove his pressurised worth with the bat – and the ball.

The veteran Ian Bell, of course, will welcome a 100th Test match cap. The 12th Englishman to do so – and arguably the most talented – Bell could lay himself among the true greats with a performance of genuine substance in a deciding fixture that demands a man for the big occasion.

This will be Sri Lanka's first ever Test at Headingley. A forced change will likely see former T20I captain Dinesh Chandimal replace the injured Prasanna Jayawardene. A change to the pace attack, with left-armer Chanaka Welegedara or right-armer Dhammika Prasad drafted in, wouldn't be untoward. The change in arm angle or extra pace will surely bring a dynamic to the ranks that all-rounder Nuwan Kulasekara doesn't.

The veteran Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have not hidden away from suggestion that this might be a final chance to impress in the United Kingdom. Nearing the end of a couple of remarkable careers, the duo could mark the potential frailties of the middle order in their eventual absence with characteristic dominance. Opportunity, indeed, knocks.

<b>Key Men</b><br>Falling prey to his own lips and lack of runs, skipper <b>Alastair Cook</b> will come under serious pressure if runs don't flow. Perhaps the captaincy is taking its toll on his primary role with the bat. Regardless, Cook must shine in both departments to stave off the knives.

Opener <b>Kaushal Silva</b> is growing in standing and confidence with every match and, with Sangakkara and Jayawardene's retirements gradually nearing, Sri Lanka's new-school bench strength – which includes Chandimal – need to step up.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2014: First Test: Match drawn in London<br>2012: Second Test: England won by eight wickets in Colombo<br>2012: First Test: Sri Lanka won by 75 runs in Galle<br>2011: Third Test: Match drawn in Southampton<br>2011: Second Test: Match drawn in London

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>England:</i> Sam Robson, Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, Liam Plunkett, James Anderson.

<i>Sri Lanka:</i> Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Rangana Herath, Dhammika Prasad, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep.

<b>Dates:</b> 20-24 June<br><b>Morning session:</b> 11:00-13:00 (10:00-12:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:40-15:40 (14:40-16:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 16:00-18:00 (15:00-17:00 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Steve Davis and Billy Bowden<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Paul Reiffel<br><b>Match referee:</b> Andy Pycroft

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