England happy to play part in island's revival
England's cricketers find themselves in a unique position as they prepare for tomorrow's series deciding third and final Test against Sri Lanka. From a professional point of view they are determined to win here in Galle and travel home with a highly respectable series draw.
But the chances of Michael Vaughan's side achieving this goal have not been helped by the facilities available to them at The Galle International Cricket Stadium, whose reconstruction after the tsunami in 2004 is not on schedule. In light of what took place three years ago, it would be churlish of England to complain about the lack of practice facilities and the state of the ground, and they have not. Vaughan's side are dealing with a delicate situation impeccably.
They know that the reopening of the ground in the tsunami ravaged region is far more important than the game of cricket that is about to take place. But the generosity of England's players will not extend to the cricket. Bad weather continues to threaten the start of the Test, but the tourists insist they will be doing all they can to level the series.
"This is a huge game for us, a game we need to take seriously," Kevin Pietersen said. "The ground is not as ready as it could be, but we are here to a job. We have to do something because we are 1-0 down in the series and the fact that it could be a result-orientated pitch could work in our favour. We need a result.
"We are fully aware that this is more than just a cricket match for the local people and that is why we are not going to talk badly about the ground. They are trying to do a great job.
"What took place here was a disaster and seeing the buildings here makes you realise how fortunate you are back home. We will be doing everything we can to get the game underway. I know how much this country loves its cricket and the people of Galle cannot wait to watch some cricket played at that ground again.
"It is a huge thing for us and we will enjoy the experience, and I think in six months to a years time it will be a fantastic cricket ground. It is not fit yet, but if it doesn't rain again we should be OK."
If England are to return home smiling they will need to take 20 wickets in a Test, something they are yet to do in the series. The pitch, which is still soft and wet, could well assist them in this task, but picking the bowlers best suited to exploit the conditions will be an interesting job.
The pitch currently resembles a good old-fashioned "sticky dog", the type of surface that Derek Underwood would have been unplayable on.
But England do not have an Underwood, they have a Monty Panesar. Panesar would not have played on such a surface since representing Luton Town Cricket Club as a youngster. So the man to exploit these conditions best for England could be Matthew Hoggard, and Vaughan will be hoping he has recovered from his back injury.
Steve Harmison was England's most threatening bowler in Colombo, but the pitch may not suit a tall bouncy bowler. The decision may be taken out of the selectors' hands, though, should Harmison fail to rid himself of an ear infection.
The other dilemma facing the selectors is whether to pick four or five bowlers. Ravi Bopara's bowling has been underused in the opening two Tests and the selectors could contemplate replacing him with Stuart Broad, James Anderson or Graeme Swann, a second spinner.
Sri Lanka will make at least two changes to the team that drew in Colombo. The fast bowler Dilhara Fernando is out with an ankle injury and Jehan Mubarak has been dropped. Sujeewa de Silva, a left-arm swing bowler, or Malinga Bandara, a leg-spinner, are expected to take Fernando's place. Tillakaratne Dilshan will replace Mubarak.
Graham Gooch has decided not to apply for the position of England's National Selector. "I was interested, but after weighing up all the options, I feel that whoever does the job will have to devote themselves fully to it. There is no way I could continue with the coaching work I do at Essex."
England: M P Vaughan (c), A N Cook, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, R S Bopara, M J Prior, R J Sidebottom, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, M S Panesar.
Sri Lanka: D P M D Jayawardene (c), W U Tharanga, M G Vandort, K C Sangakkara, H M N C Silva, T M Dilshan, H A P W Jayawardene, W P U J C Vaas, M C Bandara, L S Malinga, M Muralitharan.
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