England will face Sri Lanka in the first assignment of the long Asian tour in World Test Championship 2019-21. England would aim for 120 points from this series to tight their chances for the finals.
Match Timings: Jan 14, 10 AM IST
England will mark its first big series in the Indian subcontinent, and Sri Lanka will host the English side for the two-matches Test series. Sri Lanka is already out of the WTC finals, but England are still in the race. 120 points will be at stake, and the visitors would eye these vital points. England have the upper hand despite a bad record of non-Asian sides in Asia. Joe Root had led England to a memorable series win in Sri Lanka when they last toured in 2018/19. The situations have been changed after COVID, and lack of preparations hurt the Lankan side. England didn’t appear in any warm-up game, but they have played intra-squad Test, and South African legend Kallis has also joined the side as the batting consultant.
Visitors have to play out of its skin to earn points from the remaining six Tests in World Test Championship. If they lose here, they will be out of the WTC finals race. England last played at home in Tests and defeated West Indies and Pakistan convincingly. Zak Crawly was the big positive from the previous series, but the task would be different outside the home. England have defeated South Africa in the last away series. Their unit is boosted after playing a good amount of cricket during the pandemic. Moeen Ali might be unavailable due to his COVID-19 symptoms, and the main spinner will be Jack Leach. Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes will be missed because England has rested both players for the India series. Jonny Bairstow also got the recall, and Ollie Pope will miss this fixture due to a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will welcome international cricket at home after almost a year. After touring Pakistan and South Africa, they will play its first Test series at home in two years. They last played New Zealand at home, and the Kiwis held them for a draw. Under Arthur, it would be a first Test assignment at home, and the new head coach would keen to defeat the English side. Sri Lanka are coming off a horrible South Africa tour where they were whitewashed by Proteas. They had just one good day on tour when they scored 340 on the first day of the first test. Since then, Sri Lanka played terrible cricket and lost both matches with big margins. Injuries were also a big concern for the Asian side, but after a break of 10-days, their majority of the players are fit.
Angelo Mathews is fully fit, and he will be available after missing out on South Africa series. Wanindu Hasaranga, Mind Bhanuka, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka, and Santhush Gunathilaka are the other inclusions to the side. Embuldeniya will be back in the playing XI, and he will be a key player in the spin along with Hasaranga, who made his debut in South Africa. Sri Lanka is a dangerous side at home, and with a balanced unit, they will give a tough time to England.
Galle’s surface offers good assistance to the spin, but it will be a good track to bat on on the first two days. Chasing in fourth innings isn’t an easy task. Any target above 200 will be a mountain to climb. Both sides would prefer to play with extra spinners.