Galle rain keeps Joe Root guessing on team selection

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13 Jan 2021 | 10:29 AM
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Galle rain keeps Joe Root guessing on team selection

However the star batsman said seamers could become a weapon in the wet conditions

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Dark clouds and the threat of rain caused doubts for England captain Joe Root in choosing his side for the opening Test in Sri Lanka starting on Thursday (14 January 2021).

The southern coastal city has seen several days of wet weather and more is predicted for the first of the two Tests leaving the tourists wondering whether to use more pace on the usually spin-friendly wicket.

"We have to consider conditions again, we've had quite a lot of rain over the last 24 hours, so we'll have another look at the wicket and make sure we're really clear on the XI we want to go into the game with," Root told reporters on Wednesday.

England are resuming a Sri Lankan tour that was aborted in March as the coronavirus pandemic fallout spread.

Root, who led England to a 3-0 sweep in Sri Lanka in 2018, said his batsmen should be ready to adapt on spin-friendly South Asian tracks as they look to repeat their success. 

"That's one of the big challenges of coming and playing in Sri Lanka, and in the sub-continent, is that the rhythm of the game is so different to playing in English conditions," he said.

"There is a lot more spin, a lot more double spin and that's part and parcel of playing in this part of the world.

"Last time we felt like whoever adapted quickest and grabbed those big moments in the game won. And hopefully we can repeat that this time around."

'Reverse swing, hostile spell' 

However the star batsman said seamers could become a weapon in the wet conditions.

"Throughout the winter we will definitely try and exploit that as a tactic in these conditions, whether it is reverse swing or a slightly more hostile spell of bowling," said Root.

"I do think with the weather around that we have had – we have had quite a lot of rain and there is a lot of moisture around – so seam might play a bigger part."

James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Olly Stone and Mark Wood lead the visitors' pace choices for the first Test.

Chris Woakes is unlikely to play after being in isolation because of his close contact with Moeen Ali who tested positive for Covid-19 and is still under quarantine.

There are six spinners in the England party -- Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Moeen in the main squad, supplemented by reserves Mason Crane, Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi.

Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne praised the opposition spinners but believes the hosts have learnt from their past mistakes.

"We never underestimate their bowlers," said Karunaratne.

"We know how the conditions are and have a few plans against them. We play our normal, fearless game. We have learnt a lot from the previous series and we will not do that mistake again."

Karunaratne also held back his team for the game but said Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal will play.

Root hopes his spin can help England win in Sri Lanka

Root will have no qualms about bowling his off-breaks during an upcoming two-Test series in Sri Lanka where the pitches are expected to provide plenty of turn for spin bowlers.

Although in the side primarily for his batting and leadership skills, Root does have 29 Test wickets to his name, with a best of four for 87 against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in January last year. 

And with Moeen ruled out of the series opener in Galle as he continues his quarantine following a bout of coronavirus, Root could end up balancing England's XI as a third slow bowler in support of Bess and left-armer Leach.

England do have specialist spinners Mason Crane, Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson among their travelling reserves but including any one of them in the side could leave the tourists with an unduly weakened batting line-up.

When Root led England to a 3-0 series sweep in Sri Lanka in 2018, Moeen, Leach and legspinner Adil Rashid took 48 wickets between them.

World Cup-winner Rashid, however, has since become a white-ball specialist as he looks to prolong his career by guarding against a persistent shoulder injury and only Leach of that trio is available to Root on Thursday.

Although Root's Test wickets have come at an expensive average of nearly 50 apiece, he has taken some prize scalps and the Yorkshireman said he was ready to turn his arm over against Sri Lanka should the need arise.

"I've readied myself for it," Root told. "I've prepared for it in practice and it does seem to be coming out okay at the moment.

"With any attack, in any conditions, it's about performing in partnerships and working with guys at the other end. I'll just try to execute the role that is needed. If it is the case that I need to bowl longer spells than previously and take a bigger workload in this series then I'm looking forward to that challenge."

England have sometimes proved slow starters in recent campaigns, a particular handicap in a short series.

The memory of England's collapse to 58 all out against New Zealand in Auckland three years ago, which all but put paid to their hopes of a series win, remains all too vivid for Root.

"So many times in these two-match series, it's imperative you get off to a good start," said Root. "Look back to New Zealand, we had a terrible first morning session and it wiped the series out for us.

"We have started series poorly, as was mentioned last summer (in England), and if we are to keep improving as a team we can't be behind the eight ball going into the second Test match of every series," he added.

"We are very keen to start off strongly and to get ahead of the game. The way we are going to do that is by scoring big first-innings runs and controlling the game.

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EnglandJoseph Edward RootEngland tour of Sri Lanka, 2021Sri Lanka vs England - 1st Test - England in Sri Lanka, 2 Test Series, 2021

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