GALLE: Dark clouds and the threat of rain caused doubts for England captain Joe Root in choosing his side for the opening Test in Sri Lanka starting at the Galle International Stadium on Thursday.
The southern coastal city of Galle has seen several days of wet weather and more is predicted for the first of the two Tests, leaving the tourists wondering whether to use more pace on the usually spin friendly wicket.
“We have to consider conditions again, we’ve had quite a lot of rain over the last 24 hours, so we’ll have another look at the wicket and make sure we’re really clear on the XI we want to go into the game with,” Root told reporters on Wednesday.
England are resuming a Sri Lankan tour that was aborted in March as the coronavirus pandemic fallout spread.
Root, who led England to a 3-0 sweep in Sri Lanka in 2018, said his batsmen should be ready to adapt on spin-friendly South Asian tracks as they look to repeat their success.
“That’s one of the big challenges of coming and playing in Sri Lanka, and in the sub-continent, is that the rhythm of the game is so different to playing in English conditions,” he said. “There is a lot more spin, a lot more double spin and that’s part and parcel of playing in this part of the world.
“Last time we felt like whoever adapted quickest and grabbed those big moments in the game won. And hopefully we can repeat that this time around.”
However the star batsman said seamers could become a weapon in the wet conditions.
“Throughout the winter we will definitely try and exploit that as a tactic in these conditions, whether it is reverse swing or a slightly more hostile spell of bowling,” said Root. “I do think with the weather around that we have had — we have had quite a lot of rain and there is a lot of moisture around — so seam might play a bigger part.”
James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Olly Stone and Mark Wood lead the visitors’ pace choices for the first Test.
Chris Woakes is unlikely to play after being in isolation because of his close contact with Moeen Ali who tested positive for Covid-19 and is still under quarantine.
There are six spinners in the England party — Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Moeen in the main squad, supplemented by reserves Mason Crane, Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi.
Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne praised the opposition spinners but believes the hosts have learnt from their past mistakes.
“We never underestimate their bowlers,” Karunaratne told reporters. “We know how the conditions are and have a few plans against them. We play our normal, fearless game. We have learnt a lot from the previous series and we will not do that mistake again.”
Karunaratne also held back his team for the game but indicated former captains Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal will play.
Mathews has recovered from injury but the injured pair of batsman Dhananjaya de Silva and pace bowler Kasun Rajitha will miss the series after being part of the 2-0 Test series defeat in South Africa this month.
Mathews, 33, did not make the South Africa trip because of a hamstring injury but is expected to line up against England in matches that count towards the inaugural World Test Championship.
But England are much weakened without all-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Jofra Archer, who were given permission to miss this part of a tour before the team heads to India.
SRI LANKA: Dimuth Karunaratne
(captain), Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Oshada Fernando,
Niroshan Dickwella, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Embuldeniya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Dasun Shanaka, Asitha Fernando, Roshen Silva, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Ramesh Mendis-.
ENGLAND: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and Ruchira Palliyaguruge (Sri Lanka).
TV umpire: Lyndon Hannibal (Sri Lanka).
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2021