Stuart Law, Sri Lanka's interim coach, has labelled England the "best Test team in the world" but promised his side won't take a backward step during the upcoming series. Law took charge following the World Cup final which marked the end of Trevor Bayliss' tenure and he is also working alongside a new captain with Tillakaratne Dilshan having replaced Kumar Sanagkkara.
The visitors began their tour with a four-wicket victory against Middlesex, who included Andrew Strauss, but aren't expected to cause England too many problems over the three Tests. Law accepts his team are seen as underdogs but the determination to prove people wrong is clear.
"It's no easy task going up against the best Test team in the world at the moment, they've had a fantastic 18 months," Law said. "We know we are up against it here but we aren't here to lose. We can match them if we apply ourselves and keep things simple. We can be a devastating team and that's what we are planning on doing. We are here to play cricket the way Sri Lanka play cricket and if we do we'll be successful."
Law also knows a successful tour will do his chances of a full-time position no harm and confirmed he would be keen to taking charge in the long term. "At this stage it's a wondeful opportunity to work with one of the best teams in the world so, yes, I am keen," he said. "I've got this tour to show what I'm capable of."
Sri Lanka bring with them an inexperienced pace attack but a powerful batting order backed up by some useful spinners who, Law hopes, can flourish if the dry weather continues. The bowlers made an unconvincing start at Uxbridge, conceded 321 for 5 on the first day, but bounced back to skittle the hosts for 161 and set up the run chase on Monday.
"These boys bowl in 45 degrees back in Colombo so to ask them to bowl in 10 degrees was a massive ask," Law said. "When it was a bit warmer [on the last day] they got the ball to swing a little more. Hopefully the sun does shine and if it stays dry our spinners will come into it."
Chandaka Welegedara impressed with 3 for 39 in the second innings and Dilhara Fernando, the designated leader of Sri Lanka's pace attack, will be available to face England Lions in Derby this week having completed his IPL stint. He is due to arrive on Tuesday evening along with Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkaara, Thisara Perera and offspinner Suraj Randiv.
Law has few concerns about his two main batsmen being able to adjust to conditions ahead of the first Test in Cardiff on May 26, but admitted it would have been ideal if Fernando, Perera and Randiv were already here.
"It's not ideal but the main players we are talking about, Mahela and Kumar, have played here a million times," he said. "They know what to expect. It's a shame the others haven't been playing much cricket in the IPL so it would have been nice to have them here and for them to get two bites of the cherry. It would be nice to have everyone here two weeks before a big Test match but circumstances don't allow that these days."
Another player who is likely to face the Lions is Nuwan Pradeep, the 24-year-old fast bowler, who Law has tipped as a potential successor to Lasith Malinga after he retired from Test cricket. "Filling Malinga's boots will be tough. We've got a young kid on our squad who's similar and hopefully he stands up to take his place. He's the future. We have to find someone else who wants to play for 10-15 years."
Although Sri Lanka have never won a full Test series in England they have embarrassed the hosts before, notably at The Oval in 1998 and again at Trent Bridge in 2006 when they levelled the series. A drawn contest on this occasion would be a commendable result, but Law isn't a man to settle for anything less than victory.