Sri Lanka have not won a Test series for almost three years. Seven times they have tried, seven times they have failed. In the three years before that they lost only once, to all-powerful Australia, in 12 rubbers.
The difference is down to one man, Muttiah Muralitharan. Since he left the stage in 2010, his powers having waned in the previous year, Sri Lanka have found it impossible to replace him. Little about the composition of their squad for the series against England suggests they can win but they have a batting order which can cause trouble and, if they score quickly enough, anything can happen. They are pinning much on the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath who will be accompanied by the off spin of Suraj Randiv.
"We don't have Murali anymore, but Rangana has been around for some time and he had a great series against South Africa, when he took control of things," their captain, Mahela Jayawardene, said. "Suraj is pretty good in these conditions too so those two guys give us some variety. We'll have to play good cricket to beat England. It's not going to happen because of the conditions and spinner-friendly wickets."
Sri Lanka have played only one-day cricket for the last 12 weeks and arrived home on Thursday after tours of Australia for a tri-series and Bangladesh for the Asian Cup.