England have advantage over Sri Lanka at start of series, Kumar Sangakkara tells the Hussain and Key Cricket show

Sri Lanka will go into their series against England as underdogs after taking a ‘mental beating’ in their heavy defeat in South Africa, says Kumar Sangakkara.

Sri Lanka suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Proteas earlier this month, losing the second match of the series by 10 wickets after the squad picked up several injuries.

Seamer Suranga Lakmal is the latest injury concern for the hosts ahead of the first Test, which begins on Thursday, and Sri Lanka legend Sangakkara told The Hussain and Key Cricket Show that England have a clear advantage ahead of the opening showdown in Galle.

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“What I want is for Sri Lanka to win the Test series quite easily but I think England come into this series with the advantage,” he said.

“Last time around the Test matches hinged on really small moments which England won much better than Sri Lanka did. I think this series will be about that too.

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“Little moments that need to be converted or seized or grabbed in order to turn the tide of the match. Right now in those moments, England will be much more confident because Sri Lanka have just come from a very bad tour of South Africa.

“They’ve had a lot of injuries and they’ve taken a mental beating in terms of criticism; it pains me to say it but I would give the advantage to England in terms of winning this series.”

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England have several key selection decisions to make at the start of a Test year that could feature as many as 17 matches, starting with two in Sri Lanka and four in South Africa.

With spin taking 68 per cent of all wickets to fall in Tests in Sri Lanka since 2015, the tourists could opt to ease the workload on veteran seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad and rotate the pair.

Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain said that if that is the plan, then his preference would be for Anderson to get the nod for the first Test.

“The pitch in Galle is usually good for two days but is normally slow and low after that. So you do need some extra pace and I can’t see the point of playing Anderson and Broad,” he reflected.

“We had both Jimmy and Stuart on last week and Stuart said that if he’s left out of the first Test this time it’s not like the Ageas Bowl this time – he won’t be shouting from the diary room.

“He’ll take it pretty well because he understands conditions and they want to be rotated in the six Tests in the subcontinent.

“So you need pace and that’s got to come from either Stone or Wood; I would go for Wood for consistency.

“Sam Curran plays because Woakes, because he came into contact with Moeen Ali, is still not quite ready for this Test. So if it’s one out of Anderson and Broad I’d go with Jimmy – he bowled really well in the warm-up.”

England must also decide whether to hand the gloves to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who in 2018 scored a hundred on his Test debut or Galle, or stick with Jos Buttler who capped an impressive summer by racking up 152 with the bat in his most recent innings, against Pakistan.

Hussain said Buttler would get his vote.

“In the subcontinent when it spins you want your best keeper and Ben Foakes, according to many, is the best glovesman,” he reflected.

“Also last time out there he played brilliantly on debut and got a hundred. But I think you have to have some kind of consistency. Buttler, with that innings that he played against Pakistan, won that game with Chris Woakes and after that was quite brilliant.

“Standing back he’s quite brilliant. There is an acceptance that Jos still has to do some work standing up but if you never play him in the subcontinent, he never gets better standing up to the stumps.

“So I understand the clamour for Foakes but personally I like consistency in selection and Jos Buttler did really well in the summer and I would keep him in the side.”

Hussain said he didn’t expect the series to be as one-sided as the last time England visited Sri Lanka in 2018, when the tourists won 3-0.

“I’m really looking forward to it; it’s always good watching England playing away from home. Galle is a fantastic venue and Sri Lanka are brilliant there. It’s their fortress.

“England are without Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes and are a little bit underprepared because of the weather; Moeen Ali is likely to miss the whole tour after catching COVID.

“That brings the sides closer together and even though England won 3-0 out there last time, I think this could be a really tight series.”

Watch the first Test between Sri Lanka and England, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4am on Thursday.

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