Sri Lanka stronger for England tour: Mathews

Australia warned to prepare for a young Sri Lankan team with "guts"

Sri Lanka were comprehensively beaten by England in conditions that were always going to be tough for them to cope with, especially as a batting unit. However, they will be a very different proposition back on home soil when they face Australia in a three-Test series starting next month.

It took the Sri Lankans almost two Tests to warm up in England and that’s no surprise given the first two matches of the series were staged in the chilly, northern outposts of Leeds and Durham.

By the time Angelo Mathews and his team arrived in the warmer – but as it turned out rainier – climes of southern England they appeared a far more closely-knit and battle-hardened unit.

The draw at Lord’s, which came after a final day that saw all but 12.2 overs washed out, was Sri Lanka’s first in 17 Tests. It also stopped a losing streak of four matches stretching back to their tour of New Zealand at the start of the year.

Better teams than Sri Lanka have been routed by James Anderson and Stuart Broad in seam-friendly, English conditions. Australia will certainly testify to that following last year’s Ashes defeat in the UK.

But despite a 2-0 defeat, there were signs that this group of players under the captaincy of Mathews are improving.

In terms of the batting, a top six that is in transition following last year's retirements of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara shows glimpses of promise in conditions that even many of their English counterparts struggled with.

Opener Kaushal Silva finished as the tourists’ man of the series following two half-centuries, the first of which at Durham helped lead his team’s belated resistance in the second Test.

That was a match that also underlined the quality of Dinesh Chandimal, whose fine century at the Riverside was his first outside of Asia in Test cricket.

Then there was Kusal Mendis, the new No3 who displayed the technique and temperament that suggests he could have a long career ahead of him when he registered a fighting 53 during Sri Lanka’s second innings capitulation at Headingley at the hands of a rampant Anderson.

When all three of those batsmen are back in the comfort of home conditions they will present significant obstacles for Australia’s bowlers during the upcoming Tests at Pallekele, Galle and Colombo.

Then there’s the bowling. Rangana Herath will be his side’s main weapon on turning home tracks against Australia. The spinner may be 38 now but he also passed 300 Test wickets in this series and shows no signs of letting up.

Sri Lanka’s pace attack will also be bolstered by the return of Dhammika Prasad from injury when Steve Smith’s squad arrive in the country. Prasad was a significant absence in the recent Tests given he was his side’s pace spearhead when Sri Lanka posted a surprise 1-0 series victory in England back in 2014.

With Prasad unavailable, Nuwan Pradeep emerged as a bowler of real class, his side’s leading wicket-taker and whose 10 English wickets at 31.60 didn’t do justice to his performances.

Mathews certainly believes Sri Lanka’s Test side are in a better place now. “There are lots of positives to come out of this series,” he said. “The fast bowlers bowled extremely well right throughout the series. It was slightly difficult for them but still they had to bowl really well and they did.

“Rangana Herath, at 38, is also still going strong, he’s throwing himself around the field and it was great to see the oldest man in the team running around and diving for balls and stopping boundaries.

“Also the way Mendis and Chandimal batted was pleasing. Yes we didn’t win the series but we can take a lot away from the way we played in this series.”

As for taking on Australia, Mathews is confident his side can avenge the defeat Sri Lanka suffered in their last home series against the Baggy Green back in 2011, when Mike Hussey’s 463 runs at 92.60 ultimately proved the difference.

“I definitely feel we’ve improved and are in a better place for the Australia series,” he said. “This was a learning curve for all our players – we are a really young team, inexperienced, but the way guys fought facing Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in challenging conditions, the way they batted and way they showed their guts was brilliant.

“Last time at home the Australians beat us back in 2011 and we are looking forward to the series. We definitely can make a massive difference if we play together as a unit and we believe we can do it.”