Experienced Sri Lanka batsman Angelo Mathews, who missed their recent trip to South Africa due to a hamstring injury, has returned to the Test side for the two-match home series against England starting today. The 33-year-old former captain was named in Sri Lanka’s 22-man squad for the series, which was postponed in March after England returned home due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will now be played in Galle without fans.
Sri Lanka suffered a spate of injuries during their two heavy defeats in South Africa and Dimuth Karunaratne’s side will also welcome back experienced batsman Dinesh Chandimal and pacemen Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Kumara against England. Batsman Dhananjaya de Silva and fast bowler Kasun Rajitha were both ruled out against England after suffering injuries in South Africa.
England blanked the hosts 3-0 in the Test series on their last trip to Sri Lanka in 2018 but have key personnel missing from that touring party currently. While they have not brought all-rounder Ben Stokes and leg-spinner Adil Rashid, off-spinner Moeen Ali will also be missing at least the first match after testing positive on arrival and having to isolate away from his teammates.
Karunaratne felt his team were clear favourites this time and said they would not commit the mistakes they made last time. “We have a clear advantage against this team, because they’ve got a few new players,” Karunaratne told reporters. “The players in the current squad don’t have much experience in these conditions. That said, we shouldn’t take it lightly. They’ve prepared well, and I’ve seen how well they’ve prepared.”
England still undecided on bowling line-up
Wet weather and the potential for a more seamer friendly wicket means England are in no rush to name their bowling attack for the first Test, captain Joe Root said. Less than 24 hours before the start of the two-match series, Root said they were still undecided on who will play, and suggested seam could play a bigger role on what is traditionally a pitch that takes plenty of turn.
“There has been quite a lot of rain over the last few days so we want to make sure we are clear on the starting 11, and make sure we have the best tools for these conditions and the surface,” Root said.
“Throughout the Test tours to Sri Lanka and India we will exploit pace as a tactic in these conditions, whether it is reverse swing or a more hostile spell of bowling. It can be very effective. With the weather around, seam might play a bigger part than has been spoken about previously.”
Sri Lanka battled against genuine pace on their recent tour of South Africa with two heavy Test defeats, though those were on wickets that had plenty of seam movement and bounce. England are still in contention for a place in the final of the ICC’s Test Championship at Lords in June, but will likely have to win this series as well as their four-game tour of India to get there.
“We have to look at what is right in front of us, look at this first game and get a result,” Root said. “It is a cliché, but one step at a time. It is exciting that there is still an opportunity for us to get to the Test Championship final though.”
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