Byrne starts as Ireland make four changes for England game

By Sports Desk November 18, 2020

Ross Byrne will start at fly-half in one of four changes to the Ireland team for Saturday's Autumn Nations Cup showdown with England at Twickenham.

Byrne replaces captain Johnny Sexton, who sustained a hamstring injury in the first match of the tournament against Wales last Friday.

Second row James Ryan takes over as skipper for the first time, while CJ Stander returns at blindside flanker and Peter O'Mahony will don the number seven shirt, with Caelan Doris selected at number eight.

Centre Bundee Aki replaces the injured Robbie Henshaw following the 32-9 win over Wayne Pivac's struggling Wales side, partnering Chris Farrell.

Jamison Gibson-Park retains his starting role at scrum-half, so Conor Murray will be on the bench once again for the clash with the Six Nations champions, who thrashed Georgia 40-0 last weekend.

Hugo Keenan gets the nod at full-back, with James Lowe and Keith Earls keeping their places on the wings.

 

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, James Ryan (captain), CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale.

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    Dan Lawrence gave Joe Root a first-hand look at his talents on debut in Sri Lanka and the England Test captain came away impressed.

    Root brought up his 18th century in the longest format and reached 168 not out before rain and bad light spared Sri Lanka the punishment of an evening session on day two.

    The other stand-out turn in England amassing 320-4 - a first-innings lead of 185 after the hosts were skittled on day one - was Lawrence, who plundered a stylish 73 to announce himself at the highest level.

    A mighty slog-swept six off left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya came with ample panache and was the shot of the day.

    He helped add 173 alongside Root for the fourth wicket and the captain looked on approvingly.

    "I'm very impressed, I thought he played magnificently well," he said.

    "He showed exactly why he deserves his opportunity to play, and hopefully it is the start of something very special for him."

    Root surpassed Kevin Pietersen's 151 in Colombo nine years ago to register England's highest score in Sri Lanka.

    Despite this being his first Test century since November 2019, the Yorkshireman showed he had not lost his knack for going big - this his eighth score in excess of 150.

    "Generally when I make a 100, I make it really count," he said.

    "I have got quite a good record past 100, so tomorrow I will be trying to make that another really big one and drive the game forward from there.

    "I felt that I got in a really good mindset throughout this game so far and I will try and take that into the rest of this winter tour and beyond.

    "The previous couple of hundreds that I have got - even though they were a while ago - have come at the end of series.

    "So to get one at the start of a very long winter is quite exciting, and hopefully I can take that forward into the rest of the game."

  • Root dominates Sri Lanka as England tighten grip Root dominates Sri Lanka as England tighten grip

    Joe Root led from the front with an unbeaten century to leave England in complete control of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.

    Resuming on 66, the England captain batted throughout truncated day two in masterful fashion, reaching 168 at tea before rain and bad light put paid to the final session, with the tourists on 320-4 - a first-innings lead of 185.

    Debutant Dan Lawrence made a wonderfully fluent 73 as part of a 173 alongside Root, with Sri Lanka's main hopes of avoiding a heavy defeat already seemingly pinned on further unseasonably wet weather.

    Events might have panned out very differently had Dilruwan Perera removed Root lbw with the first ball of the day, but an umpire's call fell in the batsman's favour and he was off and running with a straight four crunched back down the ground in the same over.

    The tireless Lasith Embuldeniya claimed his third wicket of the match as Kusal Mendis held a sharp chance at gully to dismiss Jonny Bairstow three runs shy of a half-century.

    Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, Lawrence showed no sign of debut nerves as his attractive, smooth-wristed style transferred easily to the Test arena.

    The highlight of the 23-year-old's 150-ball knock came when he launched left-arm spinner Embuldeniya for a huge, slog-swept six.

    Root and Lawrence played in unhurried fashion off front and back foot, devouring a heavy diet of spin bowling until Dilruwan found extra bounce with the second new ball to have the youngster caught by Mendis at short leg.

    Jos Buttler's scratchy progress against Dilruwan showed batting might not be quite as easy on a turning surface as Root and Lawrence suggested, meaning England are ominously placed despite the lost time.

    Root begins pivotal year in emphatic fashion

    A packed 2021 schedule is likely to define Root's reign as England's Test captain, with home and away series against India preceding a trip to Australia and a third crack at Ashes glory in his tenure.

    He probably took a light lunch, having ended the first session on 99 in pursuit of a first ton in the longest format since November 2019.

    In truth, the immaculate balance and judgement Root displayed throughout made an 18th Test century feel like a formality and, after nudging a single off Dilruwan from the second ball of the session, he went on to surpass Kevin Pietersen's 151 in Colombo in 2012 to make England's highest individual score in Sri Lanka.

    Lawrence gives England a handy problem

    Root and head coach Chris Silverwood will need to call on squad depth as they negotiate the challenges of the year to come and Lawrence's stylish introduction to the middle order was most welcome.

    A remodelled Test side designed to bat time at the top of the order with the likes of Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Rory Burns now has another option in the engine room to make the purists purr. Ollie Pope knows he must hit the ground running on his expected return from shoulder surgery in India.

    Embuldeniya gamely holds the fort in Galle

    Sri Lanka's spinners have matched their batsmen for ineptitude at times, with Dilruwan struggling for length before finding some rhythm prior to tea and leg-spinner Hasaranga De Silva (0-63) going at more than four an over.

    Skipper Dinesh Chandimal has turned time and again to Embuldeniya, who has wheeled through 38 overs for his 3-131. If a five-wicket haul arrives it will be the result of relentless toil.

  • Bess helps skittle sorry Sri Lanka before Root leads England reply Bess helps skittle sorry Sri Lanka before Root leads England reply

    Dom Bess claimed a five-wicket haul as England seized immediate control of the first Test against Sri Lanka, skittling their hosts for 135 before reaching 127-2 in reply.

    Captain Joe Root and the recalled Jonny Bairstow combined to put on an unbroken third-wicket partnership worth 110 in the final session, the duo finishing unbeaten on 66 and 47 respectively as the tourists dominated the opening day of the series.

    As for Sri Lanka, their problems started prior to the game getting underway as skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was ruled out due to a fractured thumb. 

    Stuart Broad (3-20) claimed two early wickets as Sri Lanka were reduced to 25-3; they never recovered and were bowled out for the lowest first-innings score in a Test staged at Galle International Stadium.

    Angelo Mathews - back in the Sri Lanka XI - combined with stand-in skipper Dinesh Chandimal to put on 56 for the fourth wicket, but that was the only partnership of real note in an innings that spanned a mere 46.1 overs. 

    Chandimal top-scored with 28 before he was superbly caught in the covers by Sam Curran off Jack Leach (1-55), leaving the score at 81-5 early in the afternoon session. 

    Niroshan Dickwella (12) chopped a long hop from Bess to backward point, while the off-spinner also benefited from a lucky deflection off short leg Bairstow - who took the full brunt of a sweep shot - that allowed wicketkeeper Jos Buttler to catch Dasun Shanaka (23). 

    Dilruwan Perera fell quickly for a duck and, after a Leach finger tip saw Lasith Embuldeniya run out at the non-striker's end, Bess bowled PWH de Silva to complete his second five-wicket haul in Tests. 

    England's reply stuttered early as opening pair Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley fell cheaply, both dismissed by left-arm spinner Embuldeniya to leave the score at 17-2. 

    However, Bairstow – who hit a century when batting at number three in England's previous Test on Sri Lankan soil, back in 2018 – capitalised on his opportunity back in a team minus top-order regulars Rory Burns and Ben Stokes.

    Root had needed a review to overturn an lbw decision against him on 20, but otherwise made serene progress to a half-century that means his team trail by just eight runs heading into Friday's action.

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