England's cricketers enjoyed a great finish to the 2018 summer by defeating the world number one side India 4-1 in the Test series, but now a new challenge awaits in Sri Lanka.

The team will fly out this week and start the tour with two one-day games in Colombo against a Sri Lanka Cricket XI, followed by five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 game.

All that will be the overture to the main symphony that traditionally brings thousands of British visitors to this fascinating tropical island, as the two sides play a series of three Tests.

England will certainly have high hopes of success in the one-day games. Currently top of the world rankings after beating India 2-1 at home, they face a Sri Lanka team that flopped in the recent Asia Cup, a performance that cost Angelo Mathews the captaincy of the 50-over side.

The Tests may prove to be a much sterner challenge. The absence of Monty Panesar and the retirement of Graeme Swann have left England struggling for spin options, with Moeen Ali, left-arm spinner Jack Leach and legspinner Adil Rashid carrying their hopes this time. If South Africa's visit earlier this year is any guide, the pitches will turn square and there will barely be a seam bowler in sight.

It could, therefore, be a strange start as a Test opener for Surrey's Rory Burns, who has been chosen after another prolific season with Specsavers County Champions Surrey and will be seeking to fill the boots of the departed Alastair Cook. Facing Rangana Herath - the most prolific left-arm spinner in Test history - in his final series before retirement will certainly be different to the prospect of facing Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood in the Ashes next summer. The same may be true for Kent's Joe Denly, who will also hope to win his first cap.

While spin may dominate, the third uncapped member of the Test squad, Warwickshire's Olly Stone, will give England's attack a new dimension. He averaged less than 13 with the ball in the Second Division of the Specsavers County Championship this season as the Bears gained promotion, and his express pace will offer the option of some rapid bursts with the new ball before the spinners take over. Stone will hope to emulate Darren Gough, who performed this role with huge effectiveness the one-time England won a full series in Sri Lanka, in 2001-02.

Herath may be the main danger with the ball, but England's bowling must contain Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal, both now in the top ten of the ICC batting rankings after some excellent performances against South Africa.

Off the field, the tour will provide some wonderful sights and sounds. The area around Galle offers superb beaches - Unawatuna is one of the finest in the world - and the town itself features the iconic 17th-century Dutch fort next to the ground, invariably covered with England fans enjoying a panoramic view of the match.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful and welcoming country with a fascinating culture and some exceptional food - especially for those who love a hot curry. Inland attractions include the ancient rock fortress at Sigiriya, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and the sacred mountain of Adam's Peak.

Indeed, all who go on this tour will come home afterwards knowing just why it is so popular, no matter what results transpire on the field.



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