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    Injured SL bowlers give England edge

    Nuwan Pradeep and Dilhara Fernando are injured, while Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan have retired.

    Cardiff: Sri Lanka will try to overcome its ailing bowling attack to beat England in a Test series for the first time, starting with the first Test in Cardiff on Thursday.

    With Tillakaratne Dilshan set to make his debut as captain, the tourists' confidence is high for the three-match series after its dramatic 38-run win against England Lions in their final warmup game at Derby on Sunday.

    But they will have to do without Nuwan Pradeep, who took 4-29 against the Lions but damaged knee ligaments.

    "It's bad news for the young man," said coach Stuart Law. "If things are okay and he doesn't need an operation, we may opt to keep him here but at this stage it looks like he's flying home.

    "He's one of the cards up our sleeve and he has a bit more pace than the rest of them, so it's a shame if he has to go home but he was dragging his leg around yesterday."

    With Dilhara Fernando also a doubt with a knee injury and Lasith Malinga retired, Sri Lanka drafted in seamer Farveez Maharoof, who has been playing for Lancashire.

    The England selectors, by contrast, have had to omit a number of proven internationals, most controversially Ravi Bopara.

    Before the Lions game, it was widely reported in the British media that Bopara, having scored prolifically in the domestic championship, would be preferred to Eoin Morgan, who struggled in the IPL, as the long-term replacement for the retired Paul Collingwood.

    Yet under the pressure of the unofficial trial match at Derby, Bopara failed, making just 17 while Morgan hit a measured 193.

    With arguably the strongest pool of players at their disposal in a generation, the selectors' decision marked a ruthless logic. Bopara's runs came in the second division of the English championship against modest opposition and while his Test average (33.46) is slightly better than Morgan's (32), his three centuries all came in 2009 against a limited West Indies bowling unit.

    Morgan has cultivated a reputation as a player for the big occasion, which he underlined with a superb 130 in treacherous conditions against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last year.

    "I love going in in difficult situations," Morgan said. "I like going in when our backs are against the wall, when you feel there is a point to prove or you have a chance to win the game."

    Competition for bowling places is even fiercer, with Steven Finn expected to be left out, while Graham Onions, Ajmal Shahzad and the all-rounder Samit Patel — who hit 119 at Derby — were not even in the 12-man squad.

    This will be only the 11th Test Sri Lanka has played in England but the evidence is that some of the novelty has worn off. Its government intervened to allow five players, including Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, to delay their arrival in England after Sri Lanka Cricket initially ordered them to make an early return from the IPL.

    History, however, cautions against writing off the tourists. When they first toured England in 1984, they were expected to be little more than cannonfodder in the sole Test match, but they had the better of a draw, with England producing a performance of such ineptitude that captain David Gower issued a public apology.

    Sri Lanka subsequently lost one-off Tests in 1998 and 1991, but in 1998 it humiliated the host, when, inspired by Muttiah Muralitharan's 16 wickets, it trounced England by 10 wickets at The Oval.

    Sri Lanka wasn't given the honour of an actual series in England until 2002 and though it lost 2-0 on that occasion, in 2006 it earned a 1-1 draw and its overall record in England is three wins, two draws and five defeats.

    Squads:

    England: (from) Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Jonathan Trott.

    Sri Lanka: (from) Tillakaratne Dilshan (captain), Tharange Paranavithana, Lahiru Thirimanna, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Dinesh Chandimal, Prasanna Jayawardena, Thisara Perera, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath, Dilhara Fernando, Chanaka Welagedara, Suranga Lakmal, Farveez Maharoof.