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To Sri Lankans, Galle is not quite what the Gabba is – or was – to Australians but nevertheless, they have a proud record in the fort city. That record is beginning to slip, however. Sri Lanka had lost just six of their first 29 matches in Galle but have now lost three of their last five. England’s victory in the opening Test continued that worrying trend. It remains an extremely tough place to win but the notion of Galle being a home banker is slowly being eroded. Losing two Tests in succession there would be unthinkable, though. Sri Lanka have never lost twice in a row in Galle.
It will be a novel thing for the Sri Lankans to play two matches in a row at the same venue. Before COVID-19 struck, it almost never happened but now, it is becoming a sort of new normal. Sri Lanka played at two different grounds, Centurion and the Wanderers, on their recent tour of South Africa so this will be the first time they are experiencing two back-to-back Tests at the same venue since COVID struck.
Perhaps, given that England have won their last two Tests in Galle, Sri Lanka would have preferred to move on to pastures new. In the second half of the opening Test, they certainly showed that they remain a formidable foe in their own conditions, though.
While England’s spinners didn’t bowl as well as they might have done in Sri Lanka’s second innings, to make 359 on a wicket that was turning and bouncing was a fine effort and showed all the discipline and skill that was missing in their first innings, when they were bundled out for 135.
With the ball, Lasith Embuldeniya had a fine game, while the experienced Dilruwan Perera looked better as the match wore on. Reducing England to 14-3 in the fourth innings proved the threat Sri Lanka’s spinners pose. The task for the home team is to put together a more complete performance than they managed in the opening Test, which they lost to all intents and purposes on that disastrous opening day.
Sri Lanka, like England, should at least be better for the run out having come straight from the fast, bouncy pitches of South Africa into a match on a slow, spinning surface. After their defeat, coach Mickey Arthur said he thought his batsmen were still playing at the tempo required in South Africa rather than displaying the discipline needed in Sri Lanka. They should at least be well adjusted in the second Test.
Ahead of the game, Angelo Mathews said Sri Lanka’s batsmen should learn from the way Joe Root played during his double hundred. They would also do well to look closer to home. Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne, who scored his second Test hundred, showed their teammates the way with two excellent knocks in Sri Lanka’s second innings. If their batsmen can exhibit similarly wise shot selection and control in the second Test that Mathews and Thirimanne did in the first, England’s bowling attack will have a far tougher time.
While Arthur backed Sri Lanka’s young all-rounders, Dasun Shanaka and Wanindu Hasaranga, after their ineffective displays in the first Test, both could miss out this time. If they play, there is little doubt that more is required from them.
Shanaka is a batting all-rounder so needs to contribute more than the 27 runs he managed, particularly given he is a seamer and is unlikely to get through a lot of overs in these conditions. Hasaranga’s leg-spin was inconsistent, offering too many freebies to England’s batsmen, and he failed twice with the bat too. Arthur is right to back both of them as talented players but if Sri Lanka are to level the series, they need both to contribute more.
Sri Lanka released Kusal Mendis from their squad after a poor run of form while captain Dimuth Karunaratne has been ruled out with the fractured thumb, sustained in South Africa, which also caused him to miss the first Test. Oshada Fernando, who last played Test cricket at the start of 2020 against Zimbabwe and made a hundred against Pakistan in Karachi, could come into the side. Experienced quick Suranga Lakmal missed the opening Test because of injury but could return in place Wanindu Hasaranga.
Barring injury, England’s batting line-up will be as it was in game one but there are likely to be changes in the fast-bowling line-up as part of their rotation policy. If England stick with the same structure to their side of three seamers and two spinners, James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone are all in the mix to come into the side.
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Match: Sri Lanka vs England
Series: England tour of Sri Lanka, 2021
Date: Friday, January 22, 2021 – Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Time: 10:00 local / 04:30 GMT / 09:30 PST
Venue: Galle International Stadium, Galle
Weather and Pitch Conditions:
England expect a similar pitch to the opening Test which should mean an increasing amount of turn as the game goes on. First innings runs are going to be paramount and the toss vital. Batting last will not be for the fainthearted. The forecast is better for the second Test, with rain likely on day one but not the rest of the game. That will hopefully mean fewer interruptions than the first Test and no need for early starts, which will be welcomed by those getting up to watch the action at 4.30am in England. Even earlier starts than that are really not fun.
Sri Lanka vs England Today’s Playing XI:
Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Suranga Lakmal, Asitha Fernando
Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Dan Lawrence, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Olly Stone, James Anderson
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