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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Jonathan Agnew column
Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

It is tempting - but would be foolish - to write Sri Lanka off in this series.

Sajid Mahmood
There must be an outside chance that all five seam bowlers in the England squad will play

Thrashed by England A last week, and even beaten by Sir Paul Getty's XI in a friendly, their batsmen have failed to come to terms with early summer conditions that suit seam and swing bowling.

They are missing their most solid and dependable batsman, Marvan Atapattu, and experienced opening batsman Sanath Jayasuriya's decision to postpone his retirement from Tests has come too late to help them at Lord's.

But on Sri Lanka┐s last tour here four years ago their build up was a struggle, and yet a glance at the scorecard of the Lord's Test that summer reminds us that Sri Lanka made England follow on having scored 555-8.

Atapattu scored the bulk of the runs and Mahela Jayawardene, now the captain, also scored a century.

Had Muttiah Muralitharan not been missing because he was recovering from a shoulder operation, England might very easily have been embarrassed.

Murali will be playing this time in what will be his first and, because Sri Lanka are not due to return until 2011, possibly only Test appearance at Lord┐s.

He represents the greatest threat, although Chaminda Vaas should find the conditions to his liking.

England's final line-up was the main topic of debate as Andrew Flintoff led the team's preparations.

Mahela Jayawardene and Andrew Flintoff
Rival captains Mahela Jayawardene and Andrew Flintoff

Because of the need to protect him in what is an epic 12 months for England, there must be an outside chance that all five seam bowlers in the squad will play.

This would mean that Flintoff could almost play as a batsman.

But that plan has its pitfalls, not least the length of England's tail, and Flintoff in any event prefers to be in the fray and will want to bowl.

He has talked again about the hope that Michael Vaughan will return to lead the team as soon as he possibly can.

But it will not be lost on the England management that this experience of captaincy, which started in such difficult circumstances in India, is crucial for when Vaughan stands down or, in the worst case scenario, fails to resume his career.

The pitch has a green tinge to it, another reason why it is likely that Monty Panesar will probably have to wait to make his home debut.




SEE ALSO
England delay naming Lord's team
10 May 06 |  England
Flintoff wicket vital for Murali
10 May 06 |  Sri Lanka
No comeback date yet for Vaughan
09 May 06 |  Yorkshire
Sri Lanka in England 2006
27 Jun 05 |  Future tour dates
Live cricket on the BBC
19 Apr 06 |  Counties


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