A fifth straight Test defeat will see England surrender their No. 1 Test ranking to South Africa.
Colombo: A fifth Test defeat in a row for England, who were also whitewashed 3-0 by Pakistan in their previous series, in Colombo will allow South Africa to take over from them as the world's No. 1 ranked team. That, and an out-of-form skipper Andrew Strauss, puts England under enough pressure against Sri Lanka, who will look to strangle the visitors and seal the two-match series.
Strauss has not scored a Test century since 2010 and needs to spark his team into action after they lost the first game of the series by 75 runs in Galle last week. However, Jonathan Trott backs his under-fire captain to end his form slump in the second Test that begins on Tuesday.
"Every player goes through ups and downs," Trott told reporters. "When someone is not scoring as many runs as they would like, or expect of themselves, it is always highlighted by you guys. I'm sure it will have a similar effect as it did when Alastair Cook recently came through his little slump. I'm surprised you guys haven't learned your lesson from that.”
Strauss has plenty of credit in his 'cricket bank' having guided England to back-to-back Ashes wins and led them to the top of the Test rankings. However, he needs to arrest his batting slump quickly or run the risk of more media criticism about his value to the side. Strauss's opening partner Cook was in a similar position midway through 2010 but a century against Pakistan at the Oval turned his form around, and he has since gone from strength to strength, scoring six hundreds that include two double-tons.
England have struggled with spin against Sri Lanka and against Pakistan in their recent whitewash in the Gulf, but Trott said there was no magic formula for success against the turning ball. "I just played normally in Galle," said the No. 3 batsman. "I didn't try going in with any pre-conceived conceptions. I had a bit of luck early on and rode it. You certainly need a bit of luck in these conditions with a lot of catchers round the bat."
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene said the heat and the state of the wickets were also obstacles batsmen had to overcome on the subcontinent. "It's not just spin bowling but how you play in certain conditions. It's about adapting," Jayawardene said.
England are without allrounder Stuart Broad after he injured his ankle in the opening Test. If the visitors want a fast bowler to take his place, then Steve Finn may get the nod, but Tim Bresnan's superior batting may mean he gets called up instead. Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar may also be omitted after he toiled with the ball in Galle and dropped two important catches.
Sri Lanka will be forced into at least one change after fast bowler Chanaka Welegedara was ruled out with a groin strain. Dhammika Prasad is expected to replace him. But the return of Angelo Mathews after a calf injury has left the home team with a selection dilemma. They must now decide between Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, who scored 27 and 31 in Galle.
The Colombo match marks the 30th anniversary of Sri Lanka's elevation to Test cricket.