England and Sri Lanka start their three-match Test series on Tuesday. The packed international schedule has seen this tour fall during Sri Lanka’s monsoon season, which has unsurprisingly interrupted the cricket.
The one-day matches were blighted by downpours, and England’s preparation for the red ball game has been imperfect.
Sri Lanka are currently ranked as the sixth-best Test match side in the world. England are up in third, but this is a real test of where they are as a side right now.
The pattern for England has been great at home and poor away for several years. Spin – as is almost cliché at this point – has been their downfall on countless occasions.
Success on the sub-continent, even against a Sri Lanka in transition, would be a leap forward for Trevor Bayliss’ side.
Joe Root has been England’s form man in their preparation. That’s no surprise, of course, and neither is his top of the market 4/1 price to be the top batsman in the series.
Root is under additional pressure to succeed after the retirement of Alastair Cook – his performances will go a long way to deciding this series.
Root is a good player of spin and could be in early again if England’s top order struggle. Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings are expected to open the batting together.
Burns is yet to appear in a Test match (but was superb for Surrey all season), while Jennings is very fortunate to have retained his place after a dodgy summer. Burns is 10/1 to be top batsman.
Dinesh Chandimal has been a reliable performer for Sri Lanka. He averages just shy of 60 over the last 12 months and sits at 11/2 to be the top batsman in the series.
The talented Kusal Mendis is currently at 6/1 for the same honour. Mendis is a decent price, but the right-hander has had a torrid time of late, having been dismissed for single figures in five of his last seven outings.
Moeen Ali is one of the best value options in the batting market. Moeen is 12/1 and he is a superb player of spin.
He’s unlikely to get the monster hundred that can tip the balance in a short series like this, but an in-form Moeen is dangerous. His ability to counter-attack and score quickly makes him a threat wherever he bats in the order.
Ali is an interesting option at 9/2 to be top bowler. The off-spinner was excellent in England, but his record with the ball overseas is not great. An altered action could benefit him, but that price is on the short side.
James Anderson is 7/1. He is not quite the same bowler away from the favourable English conditions, but Anderson has the skills to get batsmen out even in Sri Lanka.
It’s a big ask, though, and it is hard to look past a spinner in the top bowler betting. Anderson will be asked to bowl a lot of overs, and his role will be as much about control as taking wickets.
Dilruwan Perera is the safest bet for Sri Lanka at 3/1. If England play like they so often have in Asia, any spin bowler could rip through their order.
Given the tourists’ torrid record away from home, their 29/20 price to win the series has to be considered a little short. Sri Lanka at 7/5 isn’t fantastic either.
The weather will play a huge part. A 7/2 bet on a 1-1 series looks the best value of any of the series result options. This is a tough one to call, but it’s impossible to really back England given their recent history abroad.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*