Galle: England captain Andrew Strauss says the focus is more on rising to the challenge of coping with subcontinental conditions in the two-match series against Sri Lanka rather than defending the team's status as No. 1 in Test cricket.
Strauss said on Sunday that it's important his team bounces back from the 3-0 Test series defeat to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year, a loss that was largely due to its inability to play spin.
He says "we know the extent of the challenge," adding "that is plenty enough for us to focus on and the rankings will take care of themselves" in the series, which starts on Monday.
England overtook India as the top-ranked Test team after winning a series 4-0 against them.
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene wants his players to become more consistent. His team has lost Test series to England, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa in the past year, although it also won its first Test in South Africa, which was also its first victory since spinner Muttiah Muralitharan retired in July 2010.
Lanka will be boosted by the return of six Test specialists. Wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene is back after recovering from hernia surgery, while veteran batsman Thilan Samaraweera, opener Tharanga Paranavitana and offspinner Suraj Randiv are also back.
Chamara Silva's brilliant 163 in the second warmup match earned him a callup to the Test squad for the first time in four years following Anjelo Mathews' injury, though it is uncertain if the middle-order batsman will make the team.
The teams have played each other 24 times since the first Test in 1982. England lead with nine wins while Sri Lanka have six.
The teams met last May and June in England, with the hosts winning the three-Test series 1-0 after Sri Lanka collapsed for 82 inside 25 overs in the second innings of the opening match to lose by an innings and 14 runs.
Sri Lanka, who won their last home Test series against England four years ago, have thrived at Galle International Stadium. The pitch assists spin bowling and the team have won nine out of 18 Tests, with Muralitharan being the best performer on most occasions.
With the retirement of Muralitharan, however, England appears to have a better quality slow bowling attack with offspinner Graeme Swann and left-arm finger spiner Monty Panesar in its ranks.