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England selection dilemmas ahead of second Test in Pallekele

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The second Test match between Sri Lanka and England starts on Wednesday in Pallekele.


England saw off the hosts convincingly, by 211-runs, in Rangana Herath’s farewell Test in Galle. A fine debut ton for Ben Foakes rescued England from 103-5 and saw them post a daunting 342 first-innings total. Eight of Sri Lanka’s first-innings wickets fell to spin, and after they were skittled for just 203, they faced an uphill struggle to save the game. Keaton Jennings’ long-awaited second Test hundred put the tourists in a dominant position, and the spin of Moeen Ali and Jack Leach handed England their first overseas Test victory since they beat Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2016.

Jonny Bairstow is available for selection after missing out the first Test through injury, but there are question marks as to whether or not he will play in the Kandy Test. Many are asking: why change a winning formula? Perhaps England should see how the second Test goes before changing things up, but England coach Trevor Bayliss has no issues in picking three wicketkeepers.

Foakes’ hundred threw Bairstow’s place into doubt

The question is, who will miss out if Bairstow returns? Seeing as Bayliss has publicly stated that Moeen hasn’t taken his chances batting at three, we could see him replace Adil Rashid down the order, freeing up space at the top of the order for Bairstow, or even another debutant such as Joe Denly.

With the focus being so much on Bairstow and the spinners, it could be the ideal time to shake things up in the seam department, perhaps bringing Broad in for Anderson to see how England can cope without their talisman. The pitch is expected to be conducive to spin again, so it may be a good time to blood Olly Stone. The expectation that the spinners will do the bulk of the work, even in the first innings, would take the pressure of him, and allow him to bowl his express heat in short and sharp spells. But realistically, with the series still open, England will look to pick their best XI and assuming the pitch is as predicted we shouldn’t expect any dramatic changes.

One thing is for sure, Bayliss and Root have the best kind of selection dilemma possible. A world-class batsman is returning from injury, and arguments could be made for every man in the squad to be included in the starting XI.

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