Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test
14/1/21, 04:30am (GMT), Galle
England’s hectic 2021 schedule gets underway in Galle as they complete the abandoned Test tour of 2020, and return to the country where they completed a 3-0 clean-sweep in 2018.
They have opted to rest Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer from the tour, offering Dan Lawrence the chance to shine, while Jonny Bairstow will be keen to grab his latest chance along with Jack Leach, and one of Mark Wood or Olly Stone will be hoping to make an impression in an Ashes year.
Sri Lanka were thrashed on their tour of Sri Lanka but are expected to welcome back Angelo Mathew and Dinesh Chandimal, and with their home knowledge and lack of preparation time, the two sides could be much more evenly matched than expected.
The pitch is expected to take significant turn and with Moeen Ali isolating due to COVID-19, England are without their most experienced spinner so could have to rely on some part-time offerings from Joe Root and Lawrence, while Dom Sibley’s ability to play the turning ball will be under the microscope ahead of the India tour.
Joe Root to score 50+ runs in the first innings – 7/5 @ Betway
The England skipper is the best player of spin the side and has a strong record in the sub-continent, average 46.07 in 14 matches. He had a good time on the last tour, making 229 runs at 38.16, but at times pursued quick runs due to the deteriorating wickets – which might not be the case this time.
Jack Leach to be England’s leading bowler in the first innings – 5/2 @ Bet365
It has been a tough 12 months for Leach with illness following him about on the tour to New Zealand and a subsequent lack of cricket, but he returns to Sri Lanka where he enjoyed success in 2018 with 18 wickets at 21.38. He will get plenty of overs and is likely to be Root’s go-to man, so he has a good chance of leading the wicket-takers.