Kumar Sangakkara believes England are currently the best all-round side in world cricket and has adviced Sri Lanka to target their new opening combination in the upcoming Test series.
England have already arrived in Sri Lanka and will commence their tour with a five-match One-Day International series, starting October 5th. The two nations will then play a solitary Twenty20 International on October 27 before shifting their focus to the longest format of the game. The three-match Test series will get underway from November 6.
This will be England's first assignment since they hosted India in a five-Test series. The Joe Root-led side won the series 4-1, but they had to bid farewell to England's record Test run-scorer Alastair Cook. England have called up Rory Burns and Joe Denly to their Test squad and have also opted to persist with out-of-form Keaton Jennings.
"It's going to be a tough series for Sri Lanka against an England side, who I think will be well adapted to any conditions we play them under. I think they are the best all-round side in world cricket without a doubt, in any conditions. They have all-rounders down to No.10 – they bat very deep. They have a settled batting line-up, which they haven't changed. They have stroke-makers and batsmen who can knuckle down. Since Alastair Cook has left, they'll have a new opening combination, so whoever comes in there, Sri Lanka can target," Sangakkara said in a conversation with ESPNcricinfo.
Sangakkara feels England are also well equipped in the spin department and the likes of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid can cause serious damage to the home side on dusty tracks.
"They have very good spinners in Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. Rashid in Sri Lankan conditions will become a very potent threat," said the 40-year-old. "They have bowlers who know have to reverse swing as well, so they're bringing a very, very strong unit. They have the ability to adapt, because if they want to play three spinners, they can play three spinners.
"They can play an extra seamer if they want, without really compromising on their batting. Sri Lanka will have to be on the top of their game. A lot will depend on Rangana Herath and our batsmen's ability to post a good first-innings total."
Sangakkara has played with Ollie Pope and Burns in Surrey and the former wicketkeeper-batsman had nothing but praise for England's latest Test recruits. "Burns has performed consistently over the last five years for Surrey and finally he's getting a look into the international side – I think it should have happened a couple of years ago but it's good that he's getting that opportunity while he's in form," he said.
"Pope has really blossomed with the responsibility of being a key player for Surrey in the middle order. He's a very attacking player, likes to score runs quickly, and is very good with spin. He sweeps and reverse sweeps well and these are all things you look at in young players to identify whether they're good enough to play at the next level.
"But Sri Lanka is not the easiest place to tour, so I don't think they should really go there trying to think that this is going to be a make or break tour for Burns and Pope. Just go there with an open mind, enjoy the tour, learn from it and keep growing. I think they have great potential to have long-term careers for England."