England dropped Stuart Broad for the NatWest Series decider with his Nottinghamshire team-mate Samit Patel preferred at spin-friendly Old Trafford.
The early morning overhead conditions suggested help for the fast men but the pitch itself has been a bedfellow for the slow men since the square was turned last winter.
Lancashire have fielded three spinners on occasion this season and this is exactly the kind of surface to encourage the Sri Lankans that they can replicate their series victory here five years ago.
It is also one which will test the credentials of Alastair Cook’s team. Cook, who won the toss and opted to bat, was quick to praise the decision to leave the grass on at Trent Bridge as England cantered to victory in midweek. But being exposed to pitches that are flat (as Headingley was) or slow and low (as this one is expected to be) will provide a gauge for England’s improvement as a 50-over team.
Broad was conspicuous by his absence from the pre-match warm-ups and it was clearly not a good day to be a vice-captain – Sri Lanka also omitted Tillakaratne Dilshan’s official deputy Thilina Kandamby and handed a debut to opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne.
With Suranga Lakmal sidelined for a month with a side strain, the Sri Lankans also recalled Dhammika Prasad but it was off-spinner Dilshan that took the new ball.