England and Sri Lanka will finalise their Test series at Headingley on Friday with both sides still in contention for a victory. The first Test ended in a hard-fought draw at Lord's earlier in the week and both sides emerged from the game with a certain amount of confidence heading to Leeds.
England will be pleased with some very good, encouraging performances in London, as
they contested a Test match for the first time since their Australian disaster in the winter. Yorkshire pair, Joe Root and Gary Ballance, emerged from the first Test with their heads held high after scoring heavily in the match. Matt Prior also proved why the selectors showed faith in him, despite a rocky winter, with a sound all-round game.
In the bowling department captain Alastair Cook will have been pleased with debutant Chris Jordan who once again showed great potential in what could be a long career at International level. Jimmy Anderson looks to be back to his best and Stuart Broad seems to have recovered from his injury problems. The way that the England bowlers stuck to their task on the final day by nearly forcing victory was admirable, especially on such a docile pitch.
In the spin department England will not be too concerned for this Test as Headingley is notorious for favouring seamers rather than spinners but they know that a top-class international match spinner is high on their wanted list, and they will certainly need to address this. New-boy Sam Robson could do with a score after struggling somewhat in his first Test, while Cook himself will be eager to make a telling contribution in the series.
England's greatest challenge though will be mentally as they look to shrug off their disappointment from the first Test after coming within a whisker of victory on the final day. The younger players will have not experienced disappointment like that at Test match level so the older, more established players, will need to play a huge part in lifting the side for Leeds.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will be buoyed by their resolute defence at Lords and will hope to take this momentum with them to Headingley. They too had their star performers with veteran Kumar Sangakkara showing his class, opener Kaushal Silva looking a very good prospect for the future, and captain Angelo Matthews posting a first innings century. All too often Sri Lanka have been troubled by English conditions in the past but on this tour they look better prepared and will be confident of victory at Headingley.
Their bowling often lacked a cutting edge but there were bursts from certain bowlers that
had England's batsmen looking uncomfortable. Spinner Rangana Herath certainly caused England difficulties at times as did pace bowlers Shaminda Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep.
England are likely to head into the game unchanged but Sri Lanka will need to make at least one change after wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene broke his finger at Lords. Dinesh Chadimal is likely to replace him. Dhammika Prasad, who bowled well in the tour match against Northamptonshire, could also replace the less penetrative Nuwan Kulasekara.
Headingley will probably be just as docile as Lord's but overhead conditions can often have
an impact on the game at the ground. Decision-making and tactics will need to be spot on if either side is to take advantage of any help the weather can give. This may be crucial in deciding the outcome of the game and ultimately the series.
Before the game starts though England will pay tribute to Ian Bell who will be making his 100th Test match apperance in what has been a fantastic career so far. He will hope though that his milestone is capped off by an England series victory as new look England hope to build on their showing in the first encounter.