On the surface it’s easy to see why England are so heavily fancied to kick off another summer of Tests on home soil by defeating Sri Lanka, a team that traditionally struggle in greener conditions.
After all, England’s last venture in the longest format of the game was a notable one.
South Africa were officially the leading Test nation on the planet when Alastair Cook’s men claimed a memorable 2-1 series victory back in January.
Nevertheless, those with a keener eye on the Test arena will be aware that, although far from a shallow win, the Proteas were already a great side in serious decline when England turned up to confirm as much this winter.
South Africa have subsequently slumped to number six in the world.
Regardless, the hosts are 8/15 favourites to begin their next Test series on the front foot, with the draw a 2/1 chance and Angelo Mathews’ men given barely a sniff at 10/1.
While it’s undeniable that many of England’s leading protagonists, not least Cook and Joe Root with the bat, and James Anderson with the ball, have hit their strides early for their respective counties.
There are a few gnawing stats historically that could point to an unexpected upset and potentially swollen pockets for those willing to invest.
For one, it’s only two years since Sri Lanka pulled off a shock series win on English soil, battling for a draw at Lord’s before recording a 100-run success to seal it at Headingley.
The Yorkshire ground could be key again this time around. It even ranks as a slightly strange decision from the ECB to stage the first Test of the summer in Leeds given England’s struggles of recent times at the supposedly swing-friendly venue.
The last occasion Headingley played host to the maiden Test in a series was in 1995, and back then West Indies left England in a nine-wicket heap.
Subsequently, Yorkshire’s home ground is the only Test venue of the last decade where England have actually lost more games (4) than they’ve won.
That includes the visit of the Sri Lankans in 2014 and New Zealand only last summer.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.