Sri Lanka will take on England in the first Test of the two-match series at the Galle International Stadium, starting from Thursday (January 14). England have played 16 Tests in Sri Lanka, winning five and losing seven of them. The remaining four ended in a draw. However, the Islanders were whitewashed 0-3 when England last toured Sri Lanka in 2018 and the Dimuth Karunaratne-led side would be eager to seek revenge.
Head-to-head in Tests
Overall matches - 34 | England - 15 wins | Sri Lanka - 8 wins | Draw - 11
Last five Tests: England – 4 wins | Sri Lanka - 0 | Draw - 1
While you could go for the above team, you also have the option of choosing your own team from cricket.com Fantasy Research Centre. Based on algorithms we come up with six different teams that could fetch crucial points.
Pitch, conditions and team combination
Both the Tests will be played at the Galle International Stadium. The venue has hosted three Tests since the start of 2018 and the batsmen here have scored at an average of 26, the least amongst all the four stadiums that have hosted at least one Test in this time frame. You don't really have to get into the details to know spinners are going to play a huge part in these two Tests.
The spinners here have bowled 74.6 per cent of the total overs in the last three Tests and it would be ideal to have at least three of them in your XI. They have an average of 26.6 and a strike rate of 52.1 in this time frame, compared to 24.5 and 47.3 of fast bowlers. It won't be a bad idea to go with one or two solid fast bowlers as well, preferably those who have got more pace.
Dilruwan Perera and Lasith Embuldeniya are quality spinners, while Dhananjaya de Silva and Wanindu Hasaranga could chip in all three facets of the game. Meanwhile, Moeen Ali is not available for the first Test but Dominic Bess and Jack Leach could cause damage on a surface that would assist spinners from Day 1.
Joe Root didn't score a single Test century in 2020 and would be eager to make amends in 2021. The England Test captain hasn't been at his best in the last year or two and has fallen way behind the likes of Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli. There have been talks about Babar Azam replacing him in the "Fab Four" and Root's legacy as one of the modern greats could be defined over the next 12 months. The right-hander has an average of 38.17 in Sri Lanka and has that solid technique to tackle spin bowling in subcontinental conditions. If needed, the 30-year-old could also get you a few crucial points with his bowling.
Our Criclytics player projector predicts Root could score 44-66 runs in this match.
Dominic Bess has only played 10 Tests but the 23-year-old has impressed everyone with his bowling. The offspinner has played eight of his 10 Tests in England, which is not a great place for spinners. Bess however was at his best when England toured South Africa in 2019-20. The offie featured in only two games but managed to take eight wickets at an average of 25.75. Bess would enjoy bowling in Sri Lanka, against a team who have quite a few left-handers in their XI. Also, Bess has a batting average of 27.88!
Our Criclytics player projector predicts Bess could score 19-28 runs and could take 2-4 wickets in this match.
Dimuth Karunaratne has a batting average of 66.08 in the seven Tests he has played in Sri Lanka since 2018. The left-handed opener has been Sri Lanka's best batsman in the last year or two and has led his team from the front, especially in home conditions. The 32-year-old will have to be at his best if Sri Lanka want to get the better of England this time around.
Our Criclytics player projector predicts Karunaratne could score 50-75 runs in this match.
Since 2018, no other bowler has taken more wickets than Dilruwan Perera in Sri Lanka. The 38-year-old has become Sri Lanka's premier spinner ever since Rangana Herath announced his retirement. Perera has taken 41 wickets at an average of 20.7, studded with three four-wicket hauls and as many five-wicket hauls, in Sri Lanka since the start of 2018. The veteran took 22 wickets in three games when England last toured Sri Lanka.
Our Criclytics player projector predicts Perera could score 14-21 runs and could take 1-3 wickets in this match.