Snakes & Ladders: England's quest to reach top of game

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The Independent Online

England have fixed their sights on becoming the world's No 1 Test team – and sooner rather than later. Given a good run of results, and a fair wind, they could be crowned by the end of a summer which sees them start against fourth-ranked Sri Lanka and then tackle leaders India. Knowing England, though, their journey from today in third spot is unlikely to be without its ups and downs. Or snakes and ladders. Independent Sport will monitor England's progress on a daily basis throughout the summer's seven Tests.

Up: England were short of wickets at Lord's yesterday, but maybe that was just as well for the good folk of one Lancashire town. "If he gets caught out there I'll show my backside in Blackburn Boulevard," promised "Bumble" Lloyd when discussing an unusual field placing on Sky TV.

Down: Sri Lanka's decision to bowl first surprised most people. Now we know where the idea came from: Arjuna Ranatunga (the skipper who invited England to make a big score at The Oval in 1998 and then supervised a stunning 10-wicket win) is in town.

Up: Re: Ranatunga's master stroke of 13 years ago. There is one major reason to reckon that a repeat result is extremely unlikely: Sri Lanka no longer have a certain M Muralitharan (16 for 220 at The Oval) in their line-up.

Down: England are clearly anticipating more injuries to follow Jimmy Anderson's side strain. They had not one, not two, not three but four 12th men (if that is not a contradiction in terms) on standby yesterday.

Down: You can't say England haven't tried to make life painful for Tillakaratne Dilshan. Three times they've struck him on the right thumb with bone-jarring blows (once in Cardiff, twice at Lord's) but he will not submit. Perhaps Sri Lanka's captain is indestructible.

State of play on the snakes and ladders board: Back one place, England.