It has been only been three days since England clinched a 1-0 lead in the series, registering their fifth consecutive Test win in Sri Lanka and now the two teams are within 24 hours of toss in the second Test. International cricket is tough now then it has ever been with the bio-bubbles in operation and breaks between Test matches smaller than the duration of the game.
There is no time for recovery, there is no time for further practice and there is only a handful of time to develop new strategies. There is no time for travel as well which means the second Test is also at the Galle International Stadium. Both sides are familiar with the pitch and the conditions.
The first Test was a pretty satisfying result for England. Though, skipper Joe Root said it was not a perfect game for his side, it felt like one. The biggest plus point was the way England batted against the Sri Lankan spinner, on pitch which was not the toughest to negate spin but it was not a cakewalk either. Jonny Bairstow and the debutant, Dan Lawrence instilled confidence. Moreover, the real Joe Root stood up, carrying the fortunes of the England side with his bat, as it was expected from him in his early days as a professional cricketer.
Both their spinners picked a five-wicket haul. Jos Buttler did well behind the stumps. Stuart Broad was the most impressive pacer in the match. Though Root believes it was not a perfect game owing to the hard toil in the second innings with the ball, a roll over would have revealed little about their character. They ticked a lot of boxes knowing a bigger battle awaits in India. The only unchecked box was the openers - Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley - both of whom could not reach the double figures in either innings but Root has shown confidence in them to get through.
Though, it is also true that their job became relatively easier once Sri Lanka were all out on Day 1, after opting to bat first. Sri Lanka have been all out under 250 12 times in 11 Tests since 2019 (excluding Zimbabwe). The bowling has not been inspirational either but it is the batting which has let Sri Lanka down incessantly. The second innings performance showed the ingredients are there if the players apply themselves. No doubt, the Sri Lankan batsmen will be under the radar in the second Test.
Another concern for Sri Lanka is the injury department. Both Dimuth Karunaratne and Suranga Lakmal were deemed unavailable on the morning of the first Test. Karunaratne remains to be unavailable and there is no news on Lakmal yet. However, Asitha Fernando did well in the first Test and Sri Lanka may want to persist with him.
Even a draw would be a good result for Sri Lanka, given it is not heavily influenced by rain, but nothing except a win would satiate England. Outside of the prospects of a tough India tour, England must also have the World Test Championship final in mind - a race in which they have fallen behind.
Pitch and conditions
23 out of the 30 wickets to fall in the first Test (excluding three run-outs) were pouched by the spinners and a similar kind of percentage is expected in the second Test as well. The venue has now hosted four Tests since the start of 2018 and the batsmen here have scored at an average of 26.9, the least amongst all the four stadiums in the country to have hosted Test cricket in this time frame.
Rain is expected to stay away from this contest, although clouds may hover over the Galle International Stadium, giving pacers something going their way.
Wanindu Hasaranga was the only front-line spinner to have gone wicketless in the first match. Although, he still has a lot to offer against an England batting line-up full of right-handers. Also, he contributes with the bat which takes pressure from their main core of batsmen. In other news, Kusal Mendis has been dropped by Sri Lanka and will be replaced by Oshada Fernando.
Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Oshada Fernando, Dinesh Chandimal (c), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya.
England have announced their XI on the eve of the Test match. With 17 Tests scheduled this year and Ashes right at the end, it is a no-brainer that they have rested Stuart Broad, though he was spectacular in the first Test. James Anderson comes in the XI and the rest of the side remains the same.
Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Dan Lawrence, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Mark Wood, James Anderson