Sri Lanka v England predictions: Test series preview & free cricket betting tips
Spinners from both sides look poised to dominate Galle double-header
Free cricket tips, best bets and analysis for the Sri Lanka v England Test series, starting in Galle on Thursday.
Where to watch
Sky Sports Cricket & Main Event, 4.30am Thursday
Lasith Embuldeniya top Sri Lanka series wicket-taker
1pt 9-2 bet365
Dom Bess top England series wicket-taker
1pt 7-2 bet365
Joe Root has happy memories of Sri Lanka, the scene of his first series win away from home as England Test captain, but he may well struggle to repeat those glories in the upcoming double-header in Galle.
The Three Lions surprised the Lankans two years ago with their aggressive and positive brand of cricket in steamy conditions and beat Sri Lanka at their own game, spinning them into submission for a shock 3-0 whitewash.
That, plus the progress England have made under Root and the perceived weakness of a host side back on home soil after being drubbed in South Africa, means the tourists are a short price to go in – probably short enough.
This isn't the strongest England side – magic men Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer have not travelled, Moeen Ali has been ruled out of the first match and they will stand by Jos Buttler behind the timbers even though he is some way from world class on a tour where top glovemanship is critical.
And, of course, England are undercooked. Their red-ball specialists have not played since August and they have had one day's play on the tour. Remember, since winning in Bangladesh at Chattogram in 2016, England have won just one of their seven opening Tests in away series. And being beaten in the opening Test means you can't win the series.
Sri Lanka, however, come with no guarantees. They have lost ten of their last 14 Tests and have just been battered by an innings and ten wickets in South Africa. The big stars of old are gone, they have plenty of injuries and ace off-spinner Dilruwan Perera is suddenly confronted by an England batting line-up shorn of left-handers.
Plus there's also a weather forecast – from whichever source you glean it – which features some seriously hefty downpours. And downpours in this corner of the world can mean lost days rather than sessions. The draw for the first Test has been backed from around 5-1 to 13-5.
Perera is favourite in the top Sri Lankan bowler betting, but because of the make-up of the England side, Lasith Embuldeniya offers better value at 9-2.
The left-armer, a taller version of Rangana Herath, has taken 30 wickets in seven Tests including a trio of four-fors and that extra height makes him a real handful, especially on a surface he knows so well.
The spinners from both sides are expected to dominate. Of the 116 wickets to fall when the sides met in 2018, 101 went to the spinners.
That effectively makes it a coin toss between Jack Leach and Dom Bess for the Three Lions, and the bigger price about the Devonian appeals more.
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