Joe Roots England take on Sri Lanka in a two-game test series (Photo: Getty)
An early casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, the series of two tests in Sri Lanka, initially scheduled for March 2020, will finally begin on Thursday.
England and Sri Lanka had mixed experiences in the ten months after the tour was postponed, but both sides produced new stars and cricket as a whole had to adjust to life on the bubble.
The Sri Lanka tour marks the start of a great year for the England Test team, who will face India at home and abroad and travel to Australia to collect ashes.
Sri Lanka are hoping to return to winning ways after a disappointing but encouraging trip to South Africa.
England: Joe Ruth.
The England captain missed 100 tests in 2020 and will be desperate to lead the front line this year when his team travels to India to fight for the Ashes.
Root in a good showing in both England’s warm-up games, scoring 45 and 74 without being sent off, and scoring two hundred goals in Sri Lanka.
Dom Sibley and Zack Crawley hope to launch their international careers after promising debuts, while Jonny Bairstow is determined to justify his recall from Test, but Root remains a valuable scalp for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Matthews.
Veteran Mathews has fond memories of the match against England. He produced the heats of his life at Headingley in 2014, helping his team to a stunning victory over Alastair Cook.
Angelo Matthews has fond memories of the game against England (Photo: Getty).
Although the 33-year-old has gone through a period of frustration after this blow, averaging less than 30 in three of the last five calendar years, there is a sense that Sri Lanka’s inexperienced side will need Mr Mathews’ performance.
It would also be foolish for England to underestimate Mathews. After all, barring any setbacks, he will be only the fifth Sri Lankan to reach the 6,000 try mark in this series after Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva.
England: The house of Bess
Of the 116 wickets that fell when the two teams met in 2018, 101 were promoted. Dom Bess was England’s first choice for spin last summer, but Jack Leach will surely play in both tests too.
There really isn’t much that separates the former Somerset teammates, but Bess should be cooler in matches and certainly has a higher ceiling than Leach.
The Bess House is designed to impress tourists (Photo: Getty).
The terrain in Sri Lanka is not expected to be as conducive to the rotation as it was in 2018. It allowed England’s big names Stuart Broad and James Anderson – who would each have to play a match – to extend their remarkable records.
Sri Lanka: Lasith embryo
The organisers were sweating before the first test to Suranga Lakmal’s fitness, so it is not surprising that he missed at least one of the matches.
Left-handed, Embuldenia scored 30 wickets in her first seven Tests, including two on five wickets and three on four wickets.
The 24-year-old may not be as accurate as former Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath, but he can at least follow in his footsteps, while fellow spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Dilruwan Perera also have prolific runs to their name.
Lasith Embuldenia was successful in her short testing career (Photo: Getty).
Result of the series
Sri Lanka 1-1 England
Despite England’s victories over the West Indies and Pakistan last summer, the team remains erratic and imperfect.
They have certainly made progress under Chris Silverwood, but they are yet to prove they can score big points on a consistent basis, while their lack of a file in the mould of Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar in Sri Lanka was palpable.
Still, they are the strongest team on paper and will probably cope with the absence of some star players – Ben Stokes in particular – to win at least one test.
Still, England’s preparation is far from ideal and Sri Lanka could surprise them by taking something from the series.
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