With the IPL heading to the knockout phase, attention will start to turn to the longer forms of the game, and the first test of the English summer takes place in Leeds, starting on Thursday.
It could be a thrilling encounter as the hosts prepare to take on Sri Lanka but a weakened set of tourists arrives to leave England as hot favourites. The match begins May 19th at 15:30 IST. See full list of fixtures here.
Match Betting & Preview
Sri Lanka won here in 2014, so why are they so far behind at odds of 12.00 with Bet365 for the win? The simple answer lies in the retirement of their ‘Big Three’ – Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene, have all left test cricket and no-one has stepped up to provide their weight of runs.
It all leaves England as favourites to win it at 1.57 with Bet365 while the draw is at 3.00 with 888Sport.
The first thing we can do is probably look to rule out that draw: while you can never tell with the English weather, the forecast is good and the draw is only coming in around 20% to 25% of the time in tests. England played seven home tests in 2015 with no draws so I’m taking it out of the equation straight away.
There is danger, but a lack of depth to this Sri Lankan side and they have struggled in warm ups against two Division Two teams in Essex and Leicester. First games of any series are always the toughest to call but the evidence points to an English victory at some point in the next five days.
Betting Tip: England to win.
Top Batsmen Betting Picks
When Sri Lanka were last here two years ago, you could get some great value on Angelo Mathews in this market. The Skipper was usually listed around 6.00 or 7.00 to top score on first innings but ahead of this Headingley test, he is available at 4.50 with Betfair.
Dinesh Chandimal would be my selection at 4.50 with Bet365, but he is another in a long list of dangerous but inconsistent players who have yet to take responsibility in the wake of those high profile retirements.
Betting Tip: Overall, I’m going to wait until the second test to get involved in that market, but I will take a punt in England’s version where Joe Root starts as favourite at 4.00 with Bet365. Root is averaging 80 in first class cricket this year and is an obvious pick here.
Value Pick: However, Root’s record is eclipsed by Alastair Cook who has over 500 runs already at an average of above 130.00. The skipper’s form sees him quoted at 4.50 with Bet365. I really can’t see beyond these two but Jonny Bairstow is another man finding the middle of the bat relentlessly and is the value pick here at 8.00 with Bet365 again.
You don’t often see a spinner leading the way in any top bowler market but England has had issues with Rangana Herath in recent years and I like the look of his 3.75 with Bet365 to return best first innings figures.
Moving across to England and I wouldn’t bother with their spinner Moeen Ali who won’t feature much on first innings. Instead I would look beyond the favourites – James Anderson and Stuart Broad who are both at 3.40 with Bet365.
Betting Tip: My pick is Steve Finn who, if fit, has a point to prove to selectors. He is a strike bowler who looks good value here at 4.50 with Bet365 again.
You can never read too much into warm ups and England could be vulnerable to Mathews’ seam and Herath’s spin. I feel the hosts will win it but odds of 1.57 have no interest and the stand out prices are 4.00 on Root as England’s top batsman and 4.50 on Finn as top bowler.
In the News
 telegraph.co.uk, Live – England vs Sri Lanka: First Test live – England lose Cook and Compton in four balls, 2016