Sri Lanka v England: Joe Root expects response from home side in second Test in Galle

Joe Root
Venue: Galle Date: 22-26 January Time: 04:30 GMT
Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

England captain Joe Root expects a stronger challenge from Sri Lanka when the second and final Test in Galle begins on Friday.

The tourists won the first Test by seven wickets, thanks mainly to dismissing the home side for 135 on the opening day.

“I expect them to come at us really hard,” Root told BBC Sport.

“We expect them to play really strong cricket. They have some match-winners and we expect a real challenge.”

Sri Lanka steadily improved as the first Test progressed. They took England’s last six first-innings wickets for 49 runs, then posted 359 in their second innings.

With England chasing 73 for victory in their second innings, they were reduced to 14-3 before being taken to their target by Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence.

“We saw in that second innings how Sri Lanka bounced back, how they looked a very different team,” added Root, who will be playing in his 99th Test.

“I expect more of that in this second Test. They are a very proud team and we will have to play very well to beat them again.”

England will again be without Moeen Ali, who is not deemed match-fit. The spin-bowling all-rounder was released from isolation during the first Test after testing positive for coronavirus on arrival in Sri Lanka.

Fast bowler Chris Woakes, who also had to isolate after being classed as a close contact of Moeen, is available and is an option should England decide to rotate their seam attack.

Stuart Broad, Mark Wood and Sam Curran played in the first Test, with Woakes, James Anderson and Olly Stone vying to play in the second.

Perhaps England’s greatest area of concern from the first Test was the performance of openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, who contributed only 23 runs across four innings between them. Neither had played a Test in Asia before.

“They are two very smart players that will make sure they will give a good account of themselves in this second game,” said Root. “They have certainly done everything possible to do so in practice.

“They are two very fast learners; they are two people who have overcome some difficulties in their very short careers.”

With the recalled Bairstow and debutant Lawrence impressing in the first Test and Ben Stokes, Rory Burns and Ollie Pope set to return for the tour of India, England have increased competition for places in their batting line-up.

“It can also be a great driver for players to get better, to not stand still, to keep learning and keep developing,” said Root.

“This tour is a great opportunity for guys to gain valuable experience that will set their games up for the better moving forward.”

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