Sri Lanka are set to recall Sanath Jayasuriya for today's final Test against England in a desperate attempt to level the three-match series. Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka's highest run-scorer, was controversially added to the Sri Lankan squad prior to the first Test at Lord's by Asantha de Mel, who took over as chairman of selectors after the squad for the tour of England had been picked.
Jayasuriya, who has scored more than 17,000 runs for Sri Lanka, carved his name in the annals of cricket during the 1996 World Cup when, as a swashbuckling opening batsman, he attacked bowlers from the very first over of a match. He, more than anyone, was responsible for changing the way one-day cricket is played. Up until then top-order batsmen had looked to defend and protect their wicket during the opening exchanges of matches.
Jayasuriya adopted the same approach in Test cricket where it brought him equal success. In 102 Test matches the left-hander averages almost 42. But batting in such an unorthodox and high-risk fashion requires sharp eyes and lightning reflexes and there has been a feeling that these attributes have begun to fade - Jayasuriya will be 37 at the end of the month and he has averaged only 15 in his last 10 Test innings.
The disappointing run of form resulted in Jayasuriya retiring from Test cricket in April, and this encouraged Sri Lanka to look to give valuable experience to a couple of young openers on the tour of England. Yet soon after announcing his retirement, noises began to surface suggesting that Jayasuriya had been forced to retire and that he now wanted to play again. The change of heart, and the possession of friends in high places, resulted in De Mel using his new-found authority to get Jayasuriya on a plane to England.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, refused to accept that the selection of Jayasuriya was forced upon him and the coach Tom Moody, even though he is yet to play a competitive game on the tour.
"Tom and I were not making a point when we did not pick Sanath for the Sussex game before the second Test," said Jayawardene. "At the start of the tour we wanted to give opportunities to our young openers. It would then have been unfair to tell them that we no longer needed them after one game. Michael Vandort proved at Edgbaston [he scored a hundred] that what we wanted to do was correct. He showed that he has the character and capability to open the batting.
"There is a very good chance that Sanath will play," said Jayawardene, prior to Sri Lanka's first Test appearance at Trent Bridge. "If he plays, he will bat in the middle order, at number six or seven. We feel [the pitch] may take some spin during the latter stages of the Test, so his bowling will give us another option too."
Jayasuriya is not Sri Lanka's only likely change. Nuwan Zoysa has been added to the tourists' 12-man squad and he, Chamara Kapugedera and Jayasuriya look set to play ahead of Thilan Samaraweera, Nuwan Kulasekara and Farveez Maharoof.
England are unlikely to alter the side that eased to a six-wicket victory at Edgbaston but they will always be wary of Muttiah Muralitharan. The pitch is dry and flat but Shane Warne highlighted during the Ashes how difficult it can be to chase a low score in the fourth innings here.
England's cricket has not been blemish-free during the opening two Tests. The catching at Lord's and Edgbaston, where 13 chances of varying degrees of difficulty were grassed, was disappointing, as was the lower-order batting in the second Test, where they lost 5 for 5 in the first innings. These are the two areas where they will be looking to improve on considerably over the coming week. England's superiority has allowed them to get away with these errors against Sri Lanka, but this will not be the case when they take on Pakistan later this summer.
Flintoff's days as England captain are numbered if Michael Vaughan continues to recover from his knee injury, and he reluctantly accepted that the number of overs he bowls does have an effect on the way he leads the side. During the drawn Test at Lord's Flintoff bowled almost 70 overs and his captaincy suffered, yet at Edgbaston, where he bowled less than 30, he was excellent.
"It was not the captaincy that prevented me bowling a lot of overs at Edgbaston," said Flintoff. "It was the pitch, which suited bowlers like Liam Plunkett and Matthew Hoggard who kiss the surface rather than me who tries to whack it in halfway down. But captaining a side is a little bit easier when you are not bowling 70 overs."
England (probable): A Flintoff (c), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, A N Cook, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, G O Jones, L E Plunkett, M J Hoggard, S I Mahmood, M S Panesar.
Sri Lanka (probable): D P M D Jayawardene (c), W U Tharanga, M G Vandort, K C Sangakkara, T M Dilshan, S T Jayasuriya, C Kapugedera, W P U C J Vaas, D N T Zoysa, S L Malinga, M Muralitharan.Reuse content