Sangakkara wants Sri Lanka to target Cook’s replacement

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Kumar Sangakkara feels England are the ‘best all-round side’ in world cricket, but their new opening combination can be exploited by the Sri Lankans in their upcoming Test series.

England’s tour of Sri Lanka, which commences on 10 October, will feature five one-day internationals, a solitary Twenty20 international and three Test matches, in that order.

This will be England’s first series since they hosted India – a series that ended with Alastair Cook’s retirement from international cricket. Sangakkara believes that while England have a formidable playing XI in the longest format of the game, the new opening combination can be targeted by the hosts.

“It’s going to be a tough series for Sri Lanka against an England side, who I think will be well adapted to any conditions we play them under. I think they are the best all-round side in world cricket without a doubt, in any conditions. They have all-rounders down to No.10 – they bat very deep. They have a settled batting line-up, which they haven’t changed. They have stroke-makers and batsmen who can knuckle down. Since Alastair Cook has left, they’ll have a new opening combination, so whoever comes in there, Sri Lanka can target,” Sangakkara said in a conversation with ESPNcricinfo.

Spin-bowling has always been the key in Sri Lanka, and Sangakkara feels England are well-stocked on that front too.

“They have very good spinners in Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. Rashid in Sri Lankan conditions will become a very potent threat,” said Sangakkara. “They have bowlers who know have to reverse swing as well, so they’re bringing a very, very strong unit. They have the ability to adapt, because if they want to play three spinners, they can play three spinners.

“They can play an extra seamer if they want, without really compromising on their batting. Sri Lanka will have to be on the top of their game. A lot will depend on Rangana Herath and our batsmen’s ability to post a good first-innings total.”

Sangakkara, who has played with Ollie Pope and Roy Burns at Surrey, heaped praise on the young duo.

“Burns has performed consistently over the last five years for Surrey and finally he’s getting a look into the international side – I think it should have happened a couple of years ago but it’s good that he’s getting that opportunity while he’s in form,” said the Sri Lankan legend.

“Pope has really blossomed with the responsibility of being a key player for Surrey in the middle order. He’s a very attacking player, likes to score runs quickly, and is very good with spin. He sweeps and reverse sweeps well and these are all things you look at in young players to identify whether they’re good enough to play at the next level.

“But Sri Lanka is not the easiest place to tour, so I don’t think they should really go there trying to think that this is going to be a make or break tour for Burns and Pope. Just go there with an open mind, enjoy the tour, learn from it and keep growing. I think they have great potential to have long-term careers for England.”

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