COLOMBO, Apr 20 (Reuters) Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has backed his young team to shine on their tour of England starting this week.
Jayawardene, leading the side in the absence of the injured Marvan Atapattu, is confident his players will adapt well to unfamiliar conditions.
Sri Lanka will also be without experienced opener Sanath Jayasuriya, their highest run scorer in tests and one-day internationals.
''This is going to be a tough tour but a great opportunity for us to learn, both as a team and also as individuals,'' Jayawardene told Reuters before the squad left Colombo today.
''Losing players of the calibre of Marvan and Sanath makes it harder for us, but we have a group of six or seven exciting youngsters and I have the fullest confidence in them,'' he added.
''They have bags of talent and a great attitude. They want to develop and they will learn a great deal during a long tour that should be a crucial investment in our future.
''I'll be urging them to play with the natural flair and freedom that has won them a place in the team.'' STIFF CHALLENGE Jayawardene said England represented a stiff challenge in test cricket at home, especially after their Ashes win last year.
''They've got a balanced team with a couple of strong all rounders, a good pace attack and a solid batting line-up, we expect them to play some good cricket,'' Jayawardene said.
''But we've got some world-class players and I know we've got the talent to give them a really good fight.
''There are no fears out there -- we'll be working really hard and will take the game to them.
Jayawardene dismissed concerns about the top order's ability to adapt to English conditions.
''People are already worrying about the ball moving around and all that jazz,'' said Jayawardene.
''But England has some of the best batting pitches in the world and I know our batsmen are actually looking forward to the opportunity of scoring plenty of runs in the test series.'' Sri Lanka regrouped today for the flight to England having enjoyed a 10-day holiday following a hectic six months of non-stop cricket.
The team will play three warm-up matches before a three-match test series starting at Lord's on May 11 and a five one-day internationals.
Sri Lanka squad: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara (vice-captain), Upul Tharanga, Michael Vandort, Jehan Mubarak, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Kapugedera, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Chaminda Vaas, Nuwan Zoysa, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekera, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara, Michael Tissera (manager).
Tom Moody (coach), Trevor Penney (assistant coach), Tommy Simsek (physio), C.J. Clarke (trainer), G. Niroshan (computer analyst) REUTERS PG PM0736