Eight of England's 11 players involved in the Indian Premier League have returned home following the indefinite suspension of the tournament.

The decision to call a halt to this year's competition was taken on Tuesday amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in India.

After two cases were confirmed among the Kolkata Knight Riders, Monday's game against Royal Challengers Bangalore was postponed. A Sunrisers Hyderabad player then also tested positive ahead of their fixture with Mumbai Indians.

Focus is now on seeing participants leave the country safely, with fears players would need to self-isolate in India and also return a negative coronavirus test before attempting to get a flight.

However, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy all boarded a flight that landed at Heathrow on Wednesday.

They will have to quarantine in government-approved hotels for the next 10 days.

The remaining three England players who were on duty - Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan - are expected to leave India within the next 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley has confirmed the contingent of Australian IPL players will be moved to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the coming days.

The Australian government has blocked citizens returning home within 14 days of being in India, meaning they will first have to isolate elsewhere.

Jonny Bairstow ensured Sunrisers Hyderabad ended their winless start to the Indian Premier League with a thumping nine-wicket victory over Punjab Kings.

Punjab always looked likely to fall to a third straight defeat after they could only post 120 all out at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Wednesday.

After losing skipper KL Rahul for just four, their innings looked doomed when Mayank Agarwal (22) departed and Nicholas Pooran (0) in consecutive balls, with Chris Gayle (15) also dismissed before the halfway point.

Pooran was run out without facing a delivery after being promoted up to number four in the order.

Shahrukh Khan added 22 and scored the only two maximums of a disappointing Kings innings, as Khaleel Ahmed led the Sunrisers with figures of 3-21 from his four overs.

Openers Bairstow and David Warner scored 73 from the first 10 overs to ensure a maiden win of 2021 never looked in doubt for Sunrisers.

The Australia batsman fell for a run-a-ball 37 after Agarwal held on to a catch off the bowling of Fabian Allen (1-22).

But Bairstow (63 not out) remained for the duration of a comfortable run chase after being joined by Kane Williamson (16no).

SUNRISERS UP AND RUNNING

Sunrisers had lost their first three matches by just 10, six and 13 runs respectively, so they have not been far away despite their winless start.

Having also lost the last game they played in 2020, defeat in this game would have equalled their longest ever IPL losing run of five.

But having made the play-offs in each of the last five years, they will hope this much-needed victory kickstarts their season to ensure that impressive streak can continue.

BAIRSTOW FORM CONTINUES

It has been a good start to the competition for England batsman Bairstow, whose unbeaten 56-ball innings here contained six boundaries and included three maximums.

After coming into the match with scores of 55, 12 and 43 to his name, Bairstow now averages 57.66 and will be key to the Sunrisers' hopes of contending.

Trent Boult and Rahul Chahar took three wickets apiece as Mumbai Indians claimed their second victory of the 2021 Indian Premier League against winless Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Mumbai posted a modest 150-5 from their allocation on Saturday with the total boosted largely to some valuable late-order hitting from Kieron Pollard.

Jonny Bairstow (43 off 22) laid a solid platform for Hyderabad's reply with an aggressive knock alongside the more cautious David Warner (36 off 34).

But both men departed to soft dismissals before India leg-spinner Rahul (3-19) stifled the middle order and Boult (3-28) blew away the tail as Hyderabad were bowled out for 137.

Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma (32) and fellow opener Quinton de Kock (40) made good use of the powerplay after they had elected to bat first as they picked up length well, punishing anything short, on a slow pitch in Chennai.

Mumbai's innings stuttered in the middle overs as Vijay Shankar (2-19) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (2-29) put the brakes on before Pollard (35 not out) whacked 16 crucial runs off the last over from Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Boult and Jasprit Bumrah initially made life tough for Hyderabad before Bairstow exploded in with a brutal assault, striking three fours and four sixes before he stepped on his stumps trying to work a ball from Krunal Pandya.

Hyderabad skipper Warner was then run out and Rahul's leggies swung the momentum Mumbai's way with three wickets before Boult and Bumrah (1-14) proved formidable at the death.

The victory took Mumbai top of the table, until Sunday at least, while Hyderabad are languishing at the bottom.

Sunrisers need more from Bairstow and Warner

In the third over of their reply, England's Bairstow launched a towering six off Boult straight down the ground which shattered the glass on a drinks fridge next to the Sunrisers' dugout.

His 43 off 22 balls got Hyderabad's reply off to a great start while Australian Warner played a more methodical innings to put his side within striking distance.

Both openers, however, were out to soft dismissals – Warner made a daft call for a single while Bairstow was out hit wicket – and the pair need to place greater value on their wickets.

Boult and Bumrah masterful 

Rahul caught the eye with his with his leg spin as he removed the top-six wickets of Manish Pandey, Virat Singh and Abhishek Sharma.

But at the business end of the game New Zealand left-armer Boult and India paceman Bumrah, who did not concede a single boundary, gave an exhibition in how to bowl at the death to snuff out any lingering Hyderabad's hopes.

That was backed up by some superb fielding from Hardik Pandya, who prowled the infield sharply and claimed two run outs including Warner.

Nitish Rana led the way with the bat as Kolkata Knight Riders opened their Indian Premier League campaign with a 10-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Rana made an impressive 80 from 56 deliveries, hitting nine fours and four sixes as the Knight Riders posted 187-6 after being put in at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

Rahul Tripathi helped add 93 for the second wicket, his innings of 53 seeing him surpass 1,000 career runs in the competition.

Having crashed their way to 145-1 after 15 overs, Kolkata lost four wickets for 14 runs in trying to lift the run-rate even higher, including two in as many deliveries during a Mohammad Nabi over.

However, it was Nabi’s Afghanistan team-mate Rashid Khan who was the pick of the Hyderabad attack, taking 2-24 from four overs.

Dinesh Karthik produced a late cameo – he hit 22 not out from nine balls – to hurt Sunrisers, who then slipped to 10-2 early in their reply as openers David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha fell cheaply.

Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey both made half-centuries to lift their team after the early setbacks, yet an ever-increasing required rate proved too much for the middle order to manage.

Knight Riders make fast start

Rana's 12th IPL half-century came to an end when he departed to Nabi, who then tempted Knight Riders captain Eoin Morgan to loft the next ball straight to Abdul Samad at deep backward square leg.

Having lost Andre Russell cheaply in the previous over too, the clatter of wickets ended any hopes that Kolkata - who missed the play-offs last season after finishing fifth in the round-robin stage – may have had of making it to 200 and beyond.

Jonny be good but Sunrisers come up short

Bairstow was utilised at number four in the batting order - a position he also occupied for England in the recent Twenty20 series against India. At the crease after just 13 deliveries, the right-hander's clean hitting kept Hyderabad's hopes alive as he made 55 from 40 balls.

Pandey ended up unbeaten on 61 - including hitting the final ball of the game for six - while Samad slammed 19 not out from just eight deliveries at the end, raising questions over why he did not come in earlier in the run chase.

Virat Kohli had few complaints about India's performance against England on Friday, acknowledging Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow "blew us away".

India set England 337 to win and level the three-match ODI series, a total the tourists sped to carried by Stokes and Bairstow.

While opener Bairstow contributed 124, Stokes stole the show with 99 off just 52 balls - including 49 off the next 11 after reaching his half-century. He has averaged 56.4 over 42 ODI innings since the start of 2017.

The stand of 175 - after Bairstow and Jason Roy had put on 110 for the first wicket - saw England have two hundred partnerships in the same ODI for the first time since the Cricket World Cup in June 2019.

Although Stokes and Bairstow fell in consecutive overs and briefly gave India hope, Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone completed a six-wicket triumph with 39 balls to spare.

"I think we set up quite a decent total on the board," said captain Kohli, who scored 66 and remains one century shy of Sachin Tendulkar's record of 20 in men's ODIs in India.

"But England found a way to get that 100-run partnership and we hardly had any chances come our way.

"I thought they batted brilliantly well tonight. Yes, we did not execute some things as well as we wanted to, but that was some of the most amazing batting that you're going to see while chasing a total.

"You have to give credit where it's due and tonight they totally blew us away with that partnership of Jonny and Ben Stokes.

"We didn't even have a chance, that's how good they were together and they thoroughly deserved to win."

Bairstow has 20 sixes over his past three ODI innings against India and no England batsman has more maximums against them in this format than his 26.

The Yorkshire wicketkeeper was enthused by Kohli's praise, responding: "I'll take that! It's very kind of him to say that.

"He's been one of the best players around the world for a period of time. I'm very pleased, and likewise, pleased to be striking the ball the way I am at the moment."

Bairstow and Roy now have 13 century stands together, the most by an England pairing, while no opening partnership in men's ODIs can top their average of 61.6 (from 20 innings or more).

It is certainly a role Bairstow is enjoying, as he added: "I'm happy. Since opening the batting, I've got 11 [centuries], I think I've only opened 56, 57 times.

"I'm happy with those figures but those figures mean nothing if you don't keep converting them in the future. I'm happy with how I'm playing my cricket at the moment, really enjoying it."

Ben Stokes' stunning innings and a century from Jonny Bairstow led England to a dominant six-wicket ODI victory over India in Pune on Friday.

While Bairstow was unquestionably impressive in compiling his 124, Stokes' 99 came at a blistering pace, requiring just 52 balls as he bludgeoned 10 sixes.

India had set England 337 to win and level the three-match series, with the tourists – deprived of the injured Eoin Morgan's services – wasting little time, getting the job done with 39 balls to spare.

Bairstow and Jason Roy put on 110 for the first wicket to lay the foundations, with the former then enjoying a front-row seat for the Stokes show as they combined for 175 runs.

It meant that, by the time Stokes and Bairstow fell in consecutive overs, England only required another 50 to seal the win, with Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone finishing things off.

All the fireworks in England's innings eclipsed what had been a solid 50 overs from the hosts, for whom KL Rahul top-scored on 108, with Rishabh Pant providing eye-catching entertainment in the form of a 40-ball 77 to help India to 336-6.

Having put themselves in a strong position to chase down 318 in the first match before collapsing to 251 all out, England made sure they had an even firmer footing this time to ensure a late-innings wobble would not prove pivotal.

Bairstow's 18 boundaries included seven maximums, with Roy's 55 coming at roughly a run a ball to further cement England's excellent start.

Stokes, having survived an early run-out scare, escalated things drastically with a display of explosive hitting that had India chasing their tails.

Krunal Pandya, who enjoyed such a fine debut in the opening clash, came in for particularly harsh punishment as he posted figures of 0-72 off six overs, while Kuldeep Yadav (0-84 off 10) conceded eight sixes, including three in a row at the hands of Stokes in a punishing 33rd over.

England's procession was slowed but not halted by a flurry of wickets across the 36th and 37th overs, with Stokes agonisingly falling short of a deserved century before Bairstow and Jos Buttler also had to go.

But it only delayed the inevitable, Malan and Livingstone steadying the ship and getting England across the line to set up a series decider on Sunday.

 

STOKES CAPITALISES ON LET-OFF

There was a mightily close run-out call against Stokes in the 26th over, when he was on 33.

He soon accelerated his knock at break-neck speed, having brought up his 50 off 40 deliveries before adding another 49 from only 12.

Stokes' dismissal, caught behind by Pant off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, saw him denied the third-fastest century in ODIs for England.

SERIES SET FOR FINALE IT DESERVES

This was a mouthwatering series on paper, pitting the world's best two one-day teams against one another, and it has delivered on the field across the first two matches.

World champions England flexed their muscles on Friday, having been chastened by an opening loss in which India showed why they are so highly fancied.

A winner will be crowned this weekend and, having seen the best of both sides, how fitting it would be if they could each bring their 'A' game on Sunday.

Virat Kohli hailed "one of our sweetest victories" after India fought hard to overcome England by 66 runs in the opening ODI in Pune.

Man-of-the-match Shikhar Dhawan laid a solid foundation for India with an assured 98, missing out on three figures when he miscued a pull off Ben Stokes to Eoin Morgan at midwicket.

Kohli made a similarly fluent half-century but the hosts had stumbled to 202-5 when debutant Krunal Pandya joined KL Rahul in the 41st over.

Krunal (58 not out) laid waste to an otherwise impressive England bowling performance, his 26-ball fifty the fastest ever in a maiden ODI, while wicketkeeper Rahul similarly impressed with an unbeaten 62 as India posted 317-5.

England threatened to make short work of that total as Jonny Bairstow (94) and Jason Roy (46) motored to 135 without loss inside 15 overs, before India's seamers turned the contest on its head.

Prasidh Krishna, also on debut, was the pick with 4-54, while Shardul Thakur's 3-37 accounted for the dangerous trio of Bairstow, Morgan (22) and Jos Buttler (2), and the excellent Bhuvneshwar Kumar took 2-30.

"That's one of our sweetest victories in the recent past. We haven't won many good games in ODIs," India skipper Kohli said at the post-match presentation.

"It was a great comeback from all our bowlers after going for few runs early on. Prasidh was amazing, Krunal as well. Shardul, Bhuvi were amazing. I am a really proud man right now.

"The team showed great character and intensity. As I've mentioned in the past as well, we promote players who have intent and back their skills.

"A special mention to Shikhar's innings as well and KL was back among the runs. We want to back people who will do a selfless job.

"It's a healthy competition between everyone for every slot. We have two or three players available for every slot."

Perhaps not to quite the same extent, but world champions England have their own enviable depth of talent.

Nevertheless, the steadying hand of Joe Root at number three, where Stokes stepped up to be dismissed for one, and Jofra Archer's death bowling were certainly missed as both players undertake a period of rest.

As in the recent 3-2 reverse in the T20I series, captain Morgan was left to rue middle-order failings, with the plummet form 135-0 to 176-5 key in England's challenge fading to 251 all out with 47 deliveries unused.

Nevertheless, he stood by the aggressive approach that has brought his side so much recent success.

"I thought the bowlers were outstanding and there was a bit more on offer for their seamers," he said.

"The two openers were outstanding, but we failed to build on from that. We need to execute better than we did. India did really well and deserved to win.

"Being able to take the attack to the opposition is something that we pride ourselves on. We want to continue to push the envelope in that regard. It's better for us to lose like this than losing by 20 runs.

"The game is always moving forward, technology and fitness are moving forward, so we need to push hard as we can. It's important for us to dictate the way we play."

A magnificent and emotional ODI debut from all-rounder Krunal Pandya helped to give India an authoritative 66-run win in the series opener against England.

The tourists twice looked to have taken control of the contest – initially when India squandered the platform laid by Shikhar Dhawan (98) and stumbled to 202-5, before Jonny Bairstow (94) and Jason Roy (46) tore after the eventual target of 317-5 with a 135-run opening stand inside 15 overs.

But Krunal clattered an unbeaten 58 form 31 deliveries, featuring seven fours and two sixes, as he and KL Rahul climbed into some sub-par death bowling from England.

In a curtailed mid-innings interview following his knock, Krunal broke down in tears as he dedicated his format debut to his father, who passed away in January.

Having seen his left-arm spin disappear under Roy and Bairstow's early assault, Krunal returned to claim the important wicket of Sam Curran (12) as England subsided meekly – seamers Prasidh Krishna (4-54), Bhuveneshwar Kumar (2-30) and Shardul Thakur (3-37) doing the bulk of the damage to dismiss Eoin Morgan's side for 251 in 42.1 overs.

 

Moeen Ali has decided to return to England following the second Test against India, with Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow joining the team for the next match.

After England succumbed to a 317-run loss to India on day four of the second Test in Chennai, captain Joe Root announced Moeen had chosen to leave the bubble.

Moeen was part of the squad for the two Tests against Sri Lanka in January but did not play after spending 13 days in quarantine following a positive COVID-19 test.

The all-rounder sat out the first match against India at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium but returned for the second and took eight wickets – four in each innings – on his return from an 18-month absence in the longest format.

Moeen also added an 18-ball 43 that included five maximums as England failed to hold on for a draw or chase down a victory target of 482, with India levelling the series at 1-1.

"It was not about asking him if he wanted to stay. It was a decision he chose," said Root.

"He wants to get out the bubble and that is absolutely fair enough. We respect where he is at."

England lost all 10 wickets to spin in their second innings and were bowled out for 164 on Tuesday, with Axar Patel claiming a debut five-for and Ravichandran Ashwin, who scored a second-innings century, taking his haul of wickets in the match to eight.

The tourists resumed on 53-3 but lost four wickets in the opening session and saw Root depart five balls after lunch, with Moeen's late flurry coming before the inevitable defeat.

"Credit has to go to India. They outplayed us in all three departments. We got a bit of an education," said England skipper Root.

"We have got to learn. These are the conditions you sometimes come up against. We have got to find a way to score in these conditions and take wickets.

"I think we would like to have bowled slightly better on the first day, find ways of bowling pressure, bowling six balls at one batter and just didn’t quite manage to do that, something I think we can get right in the future.

"We are 1-1 in the series with two important games to come. We are very much in this series. It is set up very nicely."

The third Test will be a day-night match in Ahmedabad and is scheduled to get under way on February 24.

Asked if he would look to rotate the team for that game, Root told Channel 4: "It's a difficult time in that respect but we have to manage the best we can.

"You look at the side you put out, there is no question they are a talented bunch of players. Questions will be asked about resting Jimmy Anderson but we replaced him with the number two bowler in the world [Stuart Broad].

"It is very tricky, players are spending long days away from their families, the fact of the matter is we've been outplayed on a wicket which has spun and is very foreign to our batting line-up.

"We've got a period now to have some honest discussions and ask how we're going to manage things. We won't beat ourselves up too much, won't get ahead of ourselves, we'll come back and be fighting for the rest of the series."

 

England squad for third Test against India: Joe Root, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

National selector Ed Smith says Jonny Bairstow understands why he has not been included in the England squad for the first half of their Test series against India.

Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood have been rested for the opening two matches of a series that gets underway at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on February 5.

Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Rory Burns return, while Ollie Pope will be added to a 16-man squad when he has fully recovered from a shoulder operation.

The squad was named on the eve of a second Test versus Sri Lanka which England will start looking to secure a 2-0 series whitewash.

Batsman Bairstow made 47 and an unbeaten 35 in a seven-wicket win for the tourists in Galle last week after being recalled for a first Test appearance since facing South Africa at the end of 2019.

Smith explained that the decision to omit Bairstow was taken to ensure he has enough time off with such a hectic schedule to come this year, including the T20 World Cup in India.

"I spoke at length to Jonny yesterday, as well as at Loughborough before the Sri Lankan tour," Smith said.

"[I said to Bairstow he has] a fantastic opportunity coming up in Sri Lanka, where we expect you to get game time. But at some point, as is the case with the other multi-format players, you're going to need your rest too, and he completely understands that and endorses it."

Smith added: "Whenever you take rest there's always a downside. These guys, Jonny included, love playing for England, but they also understand that they need their rest, so there's always two sides to it.

"But it felt right for Jonny to take his break now, because obviously he's a key part of the white-ball set-up, so that he can continue on with that when he comes back into the Test squad, as we build towards a very important cycle in the T20s, with the World Cup in the autumn."

Smith was impressed with the impact Bairstow made on his return in the longest format.

"It was great to see Jonny looking very focused and clear in Test cricket. He was given lots of visibility ahead of time that he would be likely to bat three, playing as a batsman," he said.

"But over the long term, as I've said many times, I think Jonny is a highly talented player, and we know he brings a lot to the party and can play a number of different roles. That remains the case."

 

England squad for first two Tests against India: 

Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.

Reserves:

James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.

Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood have not been included in the England squad for the opening two Tests against India.

Batsman Bairstow, all-rounder Curran and paceman Wood have been rested and will fly home after the ongoing Test series in Sri Lanka along with quick Craig Overton.

Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Rory Burns are back in the squad for a series that starts at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on February 5.

Fast bowler Archer and all-rounder Stokes did not travel to Sri Lanka as they were given a break, while opening batsman Burns stayed at home for the birth of his first child.

Batsman Ollie Pope will fly out to India and be added to a 16-man squad when he has fully recovered from a shoulder operation.

The national selectors have also named six travelling reserves, three of which are spinners, for the series against an India side on a high from a dramatic 2-1 victory in Australia.

 

England squad for first two Tests against India: 

Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.

Reserves:

James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.

England wrapped up a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first Test in Galle on Monday.

Jonny Bairstow (35 not out) and Dan Lawrence (unbeaten 21) saw the tourists past their target of 74 early on day five after a brief top-order scare on Sunday.

The victory saw England extend their unbeaten streak against Sri Lanka in Tests to seven matches (W6 D1).

It was a win set up by Dom Bess' five-for in the first innings and Joe Root's 228, while Jack Leach took 5-122 in the second innings.

Lawrence survived a couple of lbw shouts on the final day, including a review, but his unbroken 62-run fourth-wicket stand with Bairstow saw England to victory.

The second and final Test begins on Friday.

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.

Sri Lanka and England both have plenty to ponder over team selection as they prepare to finally face each other in Test action again. 

The nations were due to meet in March 2020, only for their two-match series to be postponed amid the escalating coronavirus pandemic. England were playing a tour game in Colombo at the time when the decision was taken to cut short the trip and head home. 

They have returned 10 months later for a rearranged tour, with the ongoing COVID-19 situation seeing them hosted in a bio-secure bubble for both games in Galle. 

However, Moeen Ali will miss the first Test – and possibly the next one that follows – after a positive test result upon arrival. Chris Woakes had to self-isolate having been considered a close contact, so missed out on England's only warm-up game. 

Moeen was joint-leading wicket-taker with fellow spinner Jack Leach - taking 18 wickets apiece - when England swept the hosts 3-0 on spin-friendly pitches when visiting Sri Lanka in late 2018, though captain Joe Root is aware the surfaces may not be the same now.

"We are very aware that the conditions might be very different to the last time we played here," Root told the media.

"We are not going to have too many preconceived ideas about what we are going to come up against. It's quite dangerous and lazy to walk into a series like that." 

The tourists are without Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes – who are both rested with a long tour to India to follow immediately afterwards – while opening batsman Rory Burns has remained in England for the birth of his first child. 

As for the hosts, a recent 2-0 Test series defeat in South Africa came at a cost in terms of injuries. Dhananjaya de Silva and Kasun Rajitha are both sidelined, plus Oshada Fernando has had no match practice after a spell out of action. 

However, there is good news over the fitness of batsman Dinesh Chandimal – who missed the second Test against the Proteas – and seamer Suranga Lakmal, plus former captain Angelo Mathews is back as Sri Lanka aim for a first Test win over their opponents since a famous triumph at Headingley in 2014. 


JONNY BE GOOD AGAIN?

With holes to fill in the batting order due to key absences, England are set to hand a debut to Dan Lawrence and recall Jonny Bairstow, who appears to be the choice to bat at number three with Zak Crawley moving up to open.

Bairstow made a century at that position in the previous Test against Sri Lanka, the third time in four first-innings knocks he has reached three figures against them. However, he has not played in the format since 2019, having lost his place after averaging 18.6 in 19 innings during that year.

Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes played a starring role for England in Sri Lanka last time, averaging 69.25 with the bat, but looks set to miss out on the final XI.

LEADING FROM THE FRONT

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne's century in the second Test against South Africa was one of few positives for Sri Lanka in a 10-wicket defeat in Johannesburg to start the new year.

The opening batsman has averaged 66 on home soil in Tests since 2018 (14 innings), though none of his 10 career hundreds have come against England. 

Having Mathews back should ease some of the run-scoring burden, too. The 33-year-old may not contribute much with the ball these days but does average 45.31 with the bat in Tests. He will go into the opening game needing just 19 more runs to reach 6,000 in the format.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- England have won their previous two bilateral Test series against Sri Lanka; they are attempting to record three successive victories against them for the first time.
- Sri Lanka come into the series having only mustered one win in their past seven Test matches (D2 L4); they have just suffered a 2-0 series defeat against the Proteas, losing the opener by an innings margin before slumping to a 10-wicket loss in the second match of the series in South Africa.
- The hosts have only lost once in five Test matches against England at Galle International Stadium (W2 D2). However, the most recent meeting between the sides at the venue was won by the tourists.
- Sri Lanka have managed to get the umpire's decision overturned in 23 per cent of their referrals in Tests since the start of 2019. Only Australia (22 per cent) have a lower rate; England's record stands at 31 per cent across that period.
- Despite making his Test debut in Sri Lanka over 13 years ago, Stuart Broad has only played three Test matches in the country. He has picked up three wickets there (averaging 83), but is six scalps away from going above Courtney Walsh (519) and into sixth in the list of all-time leading Test wicket-takers.

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