If Sri Lanka manages a series-equalling victory in the third and final Test against England at the Rose Bowl, it will be one of its most impressive wins of recent times.

And it would certainly go a long way in helping interim coach Stuart Law, former Australian batsman, get the job on a permanent basis.

An attack missing retired greats Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, both now playing for English counties, as well as Lasith Malinga, has taken just 21 wickets in two Tests.

Sri Lanka heads into the series finale, which starts on Thursday, without captain and in-form opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan, who had his thumb broken by England quick Chris Tremlett while making a superb 193 in the drawn second Test at Lord's.

Sri Lanka then had to persuade Kumar Sangakkara, Dilshan's immediate predecessor as skipper, to take up the reins again for what will be the first Test ever staged at the Rose Bowl, the home of southern county Hampshire.

“When he undertook this tour Kumar wasn't officially appointed vice-captain,” explained Sri Lanka team manager Anura Tennakoon.

“But in case Dilshan had to come off the field, Kumar would stand in as captain. That didn't mean he was going to captain a Test match from the start.

“Because of Dilshan's injury and being unable to play in the third Test, a situation arose that Kumar had to captain from the start — which, I think, he wasn't really mentally prepared to do.

But after some talking to him, that it was necessary for him to stand in, Kumar gave it some deep thought and tried to help the side by accepting that responsibility.”

The uncapped Lahiru Thirimanne, who made a century in last week's drawn warm-up match against Essex, is set to take Dilshan's place in the team.

There was a time, following its debut as a first-class ground in 2001, when teams would have fancied their chances of taking 20 wickets, so bowler-friendly was the Rose Bowl.

But the pitch has become progressively better to bat on and, while a five-day match has never been staged there before, all indications are it will not deteriorate greatly.

In short, it looks like being another tough match for the bowlers, including Ashes star James Anderson, set to return after a side injury to lead an England attack that faltered in his absence at Lord's.

Steven Finn looks like being the man to make way for Anderson although Stuart Broad, for all his attractive lower-order batting, will be aware a Test bowling average of nearly 36 could do with coming down soon.

Much of England's recent success has been built on the runs flowing from the bat of opener Alastair Cook, whose century at Lord's followed on from his hundred in the innings and 14-run first Test win in Cardiff.

A first innings score of 50 at the Rose Bowl would see him equal the England record of six in a row — two in the match would give him a share of a world record held by a group including England coach Andy Flower.

Victory would see England go joint-second in the ICC Test rankings, alongside South Africa, with only India, its next opponent this English season, above it.

The teams (from):

England: Andrew Strauss (capt.), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, James Anderson and Steven Finn.

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (capt.), Tharanga Paranavitana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Dinesh Chandimal, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Thisara Perera, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath, Dilhara Fernando, Chanaka Welegedara, Suranga Lakmal, Farveez Maharoof and Kaushal Silva.


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