England's skipper Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat first in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Pallekele. England lead the three-match series 1-0 after they won the first Test in Galle by 211 runs. England make no changes to their playing XI while Sri Lanka bring in Roshen Silva and Malinda Pushpakumara for Dinesh Chandimal and Rangana Herath.
Sri Lanka: 1 Kaushal Silva, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne , 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Roshen Silva, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dhananjaya de Silva, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal (capt), 10 Akila Dananjaya, 11 Malinda Pushpakumara
England: 1 Rory Burns, 2 Keaton Jennings, 3 Jos Buttler, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Ben Foakes (wk), 8 Sam Curran, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson
England were by far the better side in the first Test, but Sri Lanka, usually solid at home, will back themselves to level the three-Test series in Pallekele.
The first Test was also Rangana Herath’s international farewell, and it didn’t go too well for the champion left-arm spinner or his team. Herath picked up just three wickets in two innings, and Sri Lanka went down by 211 runs after folding for 203 and 250.
They need a lift now. Unfortunately for them, they will have to do it without the services – and leadership – of Dinesh Chandimal, who will be out for around two weeks because of a grade one muscle tear in his groin.
In his place, the Sri Lankans have Charith Asalanka, the promising 21-year-old batting all-rounder with no international experience.
Whether Asanka gets into the XI remains to be seen, but Suranga Lakmal will definitely be leading the team out in Chandimal’s absence, and he will hope to build on his incredible captaincy record – Sri Lanka have won all three Tests Lakmal has captained them in, twice at home against South Africa and once away in Barbados.
One of the other constants for Sri Lanka in those two Tests against South Africa – in July 2018 – was Dimuth Karunaratne. He was Player of the Match in both games after hitting 53 and 85, and 158* and 60.
More of that is something Lakmal, and Sri Lanka, will hope for from their star Test opener. Karunaratne didn’t have a good time in Galle, but he must lead the Sri Lankan revival with the bat, along with the likes of Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, and others.
From England’s point of view, most boxes were ticked in Galle. They countered the threat of Herath and the rest of the Sri Lankan spinners with some excellent application. It could have gone away from them in the first innings, but debutant Ben Foakes shone bright with a 107, and Keaton Jennings took centre stage the second time with an unbeaten 146.
More importantly, their spin trio of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach picked up eight wickets in each Sri Lankan innings – that’s a big reason for confidence for the visitors and something to be wary of for the home team.
Dilruwan Perera (Sri Lanka): Herath came into his own after Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement, and now it’s the turn of Perera as well as the other Lankan spinners to come to the fore, emerge from the shadows, so to say. Perera picked up seven wickets in Galle, and he might be the man to lead the attack in Pallekele.
Moeen Ali (England): He got 4/46 and 4/71 in Galle, and though he didn’t do much up at No.3 with the bat, Ali is exactly the sort of performer who can make a difference, especially in conditions of the sort in Sri Lanka. Expect more from him – wickets, and runs too.
Rain had been forecast in Galle, but it stayed away. It’s the same in Pallekeke, and the hope will be that it remains dry. On the pitch, it should be typically Sri Lankan. Runs for the batsmen, and lots of turn for the spinners.
Sri Lanka: Suranga Lakmal (c), Akila Dananjaya, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Roshen Silva, Kaushal Silva
England: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes (wk), Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes