ENGLAND’S PAINFUL ASHES MEMORIES

Sri Lanka are expected to face friendlier conditions in the third and final Test of the series at Lord’s. Having struggled to cope with the seaming and swinging ball at Headingley and Durham, their batsmen should find batting at the home of cricket an easier task.

This season’s County Championship scores at the venue support this. The first innings scores in Middlesex’s home games at headquarters this year have been 376, 423, 354, 203/3, 452 and 468. Pace bowlers have found it hard to trouble batsmen on pitches that have lacked pace and movement.

However, the Lord’s wicket does not prevent decisive Test results as it once did. There were six straight draws between 2006 and 2008, but just two of 15 matches since have been stalemates. Sri Lanka secured one of those draws, hanging on nine wickets down after scoring 453 in their first innings.

That result contributed to England’s run of one win in their last four at Lord’s, with last year’s Ashes hammering a particularly chastening experience in placid conditions. The home side’s bowlers struggled to find the lateral movement to trouble Australia, whose pace men were far more menacing.

A Hawk-Eye comparison of England’s seamers in that match and this series reveals how they were blunted in that contest and lethal at Headingley. It is no coincidence that as conditions improved at the Riverside, so did Sri Lanka’s batting.

England seamers averagev Australia, Lord's 2015v Sri Lanka, Headingley 2016v Sri Lanka, Riverside 2016
Bounce height at stumps (metres)0.790.930.82
Speed (mph)82.0082.4082.40
Seam (degrees)0.550.810.55
Swing (degrees)1.061.460.76

England’s seamers have averaged around the 82mph mark this series, as they did against Australia at Lord’s last year. However, on the lively pitch in the series opener at Leeds, they found far more average seam, swing and bounce, the key factors in their crushing innings win inside three days.

At Durham they carried on where they left off. They fired out the tourists for 101, but Sri Lanka were far more resilient second time around, posting 475 in 128.2 overs.

England’s pace attack produced the same amount of average seam in that Test as they did in the 2015 Ashes Lord’s clash and only marginally more bounce. They swung the ball less overall, a reflection of how conditions eased as the game wore on.

England know they will need to work harder to take 20 Sri Lankan wickets this week. Their seamers took just five between them as Australia piled up 566/8 last year and whilst England can be expected to bat better than they did in that contest, a major challenge faces the bowling unit.

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