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New Zealand 5th - 26th March, 2008

The Low-Down On The 3 Test Series...
After England's patchy peformances in the one-day series, the month of March brings re-inforcements and the start of a match test series.
Several test players such as Hoggard, Harmison and Strauss have arrived to shore up the Lions batting and bowling -though in truth, only Yorkshire's Mattew Hoggard will be certain to face the Kiwis.

UK Time
1st Test
5-9 March
21.30 (4th)
2nd Test
13-17 March
21.30 (12th)
3rd Test
22-26 March
21.30 (21st)


Lasith Malinga's home pitch is Galle (site of the third test) which was badly affected by the tsunami 2 years ago. Despite around-the-clock building work, it will be a real struggle to have it match-ready in time for the third test. It was supposed to be home for the first test, but the Sri Lankan Cricket Board re-arranged the game to give the pitch more time to settle down. There is always the possibility that the pitch could be declared unplayable -reminiscent of Sabhina Park in Kingston, Jamaica in 1998, when less than an hour's play was possible before the players came off. If the game does go ahead, it should be a real bowlers pitch -especially for the seamers and spinners in the later stages, if it gets that far!

Whilst Malinga The Slinger is going about his business, the eyes of the cricketing world will surely be upon Sri Lanka's greatest ever bowler, Mattiah Muralitharan. Muarali, 35, is four wickets short of equalling Shane Warne's record of 708 test match victims.

England's top wicket taker is likely to be the ever-dependable Matthew Hoggard. The Yorkshireman had a solid display in the 2006 series against SL, where he took 15 wickets at 24.60 runs a piece. His nagging accuracy can be relied upon to make the batsmen work hard on even the most benign pitches (which should include both Kandy and Colombo).

This series is a chance for Stuart Broad to establish himself as an England regular alongside the born-again Ryan Sidebottom who, if he can master the art of reverse-swing, could be the defining factor in England's attack.

A player for whom this could be a defining series is Steve Harmison. On the back of a short warm-up series in South Africa, the Durham man has been called up to boost England's attack, but a poor show could spell the end of his time as first choice and open the door for Broad or Jimmy Anderson to take the new ball along with Hoggard.


Look for Paul Collingwood to be top scorer for England in this series, although he will be pushed closely by Alastair Cook -who should pass 2000 test runs for England in this three match series. Both batsmen have been on good form over the last twelve months -wth Collingwood showing his class in the one-day competitions by playing several captain's innings when called upon.
Sri Lanka will look to their two truly world-class batsmen, Sanith Jayasuria and Mahela Jayawardene, to get the runs for the home side. Both players could pass the 7000 test runs mark this series -the captain Jayawardene playing almost 20 fewer tests than his teammate and in that elite band of players averaging around fifty. Expect him to live up to that average in batsmen friendly conditions.


These will be updated after the first test.



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