Sri Lanka v England Test series: 5 things to look out for
We've picked out five of the biggest talking points as England prepare for a two-Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle.
England coming in cold
England were the most active international cricket side during the summer, with series against West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan, Australia and South Africa across all formats.
That gave them a distinct advantage over the visiting sides, most of whom were playing their first series in months.
England now find themselves in the reverse position, having not played a Test since August – a draw against Pakistan in Southampton.
Their only warm-up for this series was an intra-squad match, and even that was cut short by the weather.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have just returned from a two-Test series in South Africa, so will be well prepared for this.
Galle is a fortress
Galle International Cricket Stadium is a fortress – literally and figuratively.
The outfield is flanked on one side by the old Galle fort, where spectators normally gather for a glimpse at the action with the Indian Ocean behind them.
It is a beautiful ground – one for the bucket list of every cricket fan – but also a stronghold of Sri Lankan cricket.
In 33 Tests, the Lions have lost just eight times in Galle, while they have won seven of their most recent 10 matches there.
England won on their last visit to the historic stadium in 2018, but that remains their sole win from five matches at the venue.
The wicketkeeping conundrum
One of the big questions for England on this tour revolves around their glovemen.
Three potential keepers are part of the squad – Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes.
Foakes – widely considered the most skilful wicketkeeper in the country – returns to the Test fold for the first time since February 2019.
He hit a heroic century on debut in Galle in 2018, but has been denied a real chance to build on that since.
Buttler has held the gloves most recently, while Bairstow will be keen to reclaim them on his return to the Test squad.
With Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope missing from the middle order, there is a chance that Foakes will be handed the gloves and either Buttler or Bairstow will play as a specialist batsman.
Only the selectors will know their plans, but the decision will no doubt be a talking point throughout the series.
Lawrence set for cap 697
With Pope still recovering from shoulder surgery and Stokes absent from the tour, gaps have appeared in the England batting lineup.
One of those is set to be filled by Dan Lawrence, who has long been touted as a potential star for England.
The 23-year-old Essex batsman provides a stark contrast to the classical Pope, with his unorthodox, wrist-heavy style marking him out as one of England’s most unique talents in recent years.
Lawrence has proved himself time and again at county level – since hitting a sublime 161 in his second first-class match, becoming the third-youngest player to hit a Championship century in the process, he has amassed 3,948 first-class runs at 37.96.
He now looks sure to get his chance for England, and will be hoping to make an immediate impression as they gear up for the Ashes in December.
Sri Lanka’s spin kings
As with most pitches in the subcontinent, Galle tends to favour the spinners.
While they are yet to find a long-term successor to Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka still possess plenty of options in that department.
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera is the most experienced of their current corps, and he took 22 wickets in three Tests the last time England visited these shores.
A lack of lefties in the England lineup may dull his threat slightly, but that won’t be the case for Lasith Embuldeniya.
The 24-year-old left-hander has claimed 30 wickets in his seven Tests to date, and he will get his first chance against England in Galle.
The Lions possess another threat in PWH de Silva – also known as Wasindu Hasaranga – who is another relative newcomer to Tests, having played just two to date.
His leg-spinners will provide another challenge for England, while he is also a solid batsman in the lower middle order.
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