Australia's Travis Head struck a century to punish England on a rain-affected opening day of the fifth and final Ashes Test at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart.

The hosts, who have an unassailable 3-0 lead, finished Friday on 241-6 having earlier been reduced to 12-3 by an England side who won the toss and chose to bowl first.

England showed five changes from last week's drawn fourth Test in Sydney, including a debut for Sam Billings, and started in an impressive manner.

David Warner (0), Usman Khawaja (6) and Steve Smith (0) all went by the start of the 10th over, while Marnus Labuschagne would have followed had Zak Crawley not fumbled.

That may well prove a decisive moment in the final Test as Labuschagne and Head launched a counter-attack by scoring 53 runs from the next seven overs.

But on 71 from 72 balls, Labuschagne comically wrong-footed himself when attacking a Stuart Broad delivery and could only watch from the floor as Australia lost another wicket.

England lost bowler Ollie Robinson to injury and their problems were compounded by the work of Head, who continued to rack up the runs when joined by Cameron Green.

Head survived a big scare on his way to reaching 101 from 113 balls, but his day was ended after he chipped a Chris Woakes delivery to Robinson at mid-on.

Green got to 74 before holing out at deep mid-wicket and only nine more balls were bowled due to rain, with Mitch Starc (0) and Alex Carey (10) to resume play on Saturday.

Travis keeps his Head after Crawley loses his

England could not have asked for a much better start on the green surface, with Robinson and Broad dismantling Australia's top order by dismissing Warner and Smith for ducks.

But Crawley's drop of Labuschagne, combined with England's wayward bowling from that point on, allowed Head – recently sidelined due to COVID-19 isolation – to grab the fifth Test by the scruff of the neck.

He went past the 100 mark, becoming the seventh Australian to do so in a day/night men's Test innings after Warner, Labuschagne, Khawaja, Smith, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb.

Green shoots of recovery

Australia all-rounder Green had a maiden hundred in his sights, only to fall to Mark Wood's short-ball trap 16 runs shot of three figures.

At 22 years and 225 days, he is the youngest player to score 50 or more runs in a men's Test innings for Australia at Bellerive Oval and the fourth youngest overall at the ground.

Chris Woakes has given his support to Joe Root amid growing calls for England's star batsman to step down as captain following a chastening Ashes defeat in Australia.

The hosts took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series after winning by an innings and 14 runs in the third Test at the MCG on Tuesday, skittling England for just 68 in their second innings, after which Root said it was "too soon to look at things."

The 30-year-old has been England's Test captain since 2017 after taking over from Sir Alastair Cook, and will lead his side out for a record 60th time in the fourth Test in Sydney, overtaking Cook's previous record of 59.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Woakes expressed his backing for Root, saying: "Joe is a great cricketer with a great cricket brain. Hopefully he can continue [as captain].

"We haven't been able to bat well around him. You'd expect us to probably put in a lot stronger performances than we have.

"I'm sure Joe will have many more years like he's already had and hopefully we can bat better around him."

England have averaged just 187.5 with the bat in six innings, failing to score more than 300 in any of the first three Tests down under.

Root has scored 1,708 runs in 2021, which equates to 26 per cent of his team's overall total, the highest proportion of any player for their respective team in Test cricket.

When asked if Root still has the backing of the team, Woakes said: "Absolutely."

The Warwickshire all-rounder was left out of the team for the third Test having taken a combined 3-228 with the ball in the first two Tests, although his batting average of 26.25 is England's third highest of the series behind only Root (42.16) and Dawid Malan (33.66).

The future of Chris Silverwood has also been called into question with the former England bowler winning just one of his last 12 Tests as coach.

"It's hard for us to focus on people," Woakes added when asked about Silverwood's position. "Who am I to talk about people's futures other than my own?"

Jos Buttler blasted a brutal unbeaten half-century as England thrashed fierce rivals Australia by eight wickets to stand on the brink of the T20 World Cup semi-finals.

Both sides came into the showdown at Dubai International Stadium on Saturday with two wins from two, but it was England who made a huge statement to go two points clear at the top of Group 1.

Australia were all out for 125 off their 20 overs after being reduced to 21-4 in the seventh over, Chris Woakes (2-23) setting the tone for another brilliant performance in the field from Eoin Morgan's side.

Chris Jordan (3-17), Adil Rashid (1-19) and Liam Livingstone (1-15) also bowled superbly as only Aaron Finch (44 from 49 balls) made a notable contribution after Morgan put Australia in.

Tymal Mills was expensive with 2-45 from his four overs as only a late flurry of runs got Australia from deep in the mire to three figures, with the in-form Moeen Ali not called upon to bowl by Morgan.

England made light work of chasing down their target as Buttler produced a masterclass, smashing 71 not out off only 32 deliveries.

Buttler and Jason Roy (22) put on 66 for the first wicket from 6.2 overs as the Australia bowlers came in for some painful treatment, with England's wicketkeeper-batsman and Jonny Bairstow finishing off the job with 50 balls to spare.

A third resounding win leaves England in command of Group 1 with a huge net run-rate, while Australia drop below South Africa into third place.

 

Australia rocked by Woakes wizardry

Woakes got England off to a dream start, getting David Warner caught behind with his second delivery and trapping Glenn Maxwell in front after leaping to take a fine one-handed catch to send Steve Smith on his way.

Australia were in deep trouble at 21-4 in the seventh over when Rashid snared Marcus Stoinis lbw without scoring and Livingstone was also outstanding, sending Matthew Wade on his way.

Ashton Agar chipped in with 20 off as many balls and Pat Cummins struck his first two balls from Mills for six, but he was bowled by Jordan, who had Finch well caught in the deep by Bairstow off the previous delivery in the penultimate over.

 

Brilliant Buttler makes Australia suffer 

Buttler and Roy got England's run chase off to a flyer, racking up the most runs in the powerplay in the tournament with 66.

Adam Zampa came on to get Roy lbw before Buttler raised his bat after scoring the joint-fastest half-century in the tournament from 25 balls with a six off Australia's premier spinner.

The Australia bowlers had no answer to the class of Buttler, who produced an exhibition of clean striking, hitting five sixes and as many fours.

England's players are "desperate" to travel to Australia for the Ashes after the five-match series was conditionally approved by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), says all-rounder Chris Woakes.

The ECB confirmed on Friday that the tour – due to start at The Gabba on December 8 – would go ahead "subject to several critical conditions" being met regarding travel, quarantine and 'bubble' arrangements.

Captain Joe Root and deputy Jos Buttler are among the players that had previously stated they were not ready to commit to the series due to uncertainty over COVID-19 restrictions.

But while still holding some reservations concerning the logistical side of the tour, Woakes is looking forward to travelling to Australia after being named in England's 17-man group on Sunday.

"There is no player that does not want to be part of the Ashes," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"Behind the scenes there are still things being ironed out between all sorts of levels. I think the players are relatively relaxed and the guys are desperate to go.

"But we want to be under the best sort of conditions possible so we can still live our lives outside of cricket."

 

Woakes, who has made 39 Test appearances for England, is one of five players to have been named in both the Ashes and T20 World Cup squads.

While the focus is largely on the showdown with Australia, Woakes will not let that influence his preparations for the World Cup, which begins later this week.
 
"It's exciting that there is an Ashes series around the corner, but there is a small thing of the World Cup first, so obviously I have my eyes firmly on that," he told reporters.

"We have a T20 World Cup to focus on and prep for and as soon as that is done and dusted our attention will shift. 

"We have no choice – you don't want to get to the end of a World Cup and think 'I wasn’t fully engaged'.

"We have to give this our full attention – what is going on with the Ashes is on the back burner and with the people who are making the decisions, kind of dealing with that on our behalf. You can't get too fixated on that.

"It is important we focus on the here and now. It is a great opportunity to win some silverware for your country. The Ashes stuff will have to be parked."

Ollie Pope's excellent 81 had England in a healthy position on day two of the second Test before India finished strongly to leave the match deliciously poised going into the weekend.

With England reeling at 62-5, Pope shared stands of 89 and 71 with Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali at The Oval, while a quickfire half-century from Chris Woakes led the hosts to 290 and a 99-run first-innings lead.

But Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul made it to the close unbeaten, with India at 43-0 in their second innings and aiming to build a lead on day three in a fourth Test that could still go either way.

England were in a worrying position when nightwatchman Craig Overton and birthday boy David Malan departed to the impressive Umesh Yadav in a bright start to the morning session for the tourists.

But India soon lost their discipline, with Pope – playing his first Test of an excellent series – fluently turning the tide, aggressively hitting Shardul Thakur for four three times in the same over.

Bairstow (37) looked in the mood too, only to be trapped lbw before lunch by Mohammed Siraj. Moeen (35) took up the mantle but cheaply slogged a slower Ravindra Jadeja delivery to the covers.

Pope remained stubborn in his resistance until he dabbed at a Thakur outswinger and edged onto his wickets.

Woakes continued to frustrate India, though, and a valuable 35-run 10th-wicket stand alongside James Anderson – who contributed a solitary run to the effort – left England with a decent lead.

By the close India had chipped their arrears down to 56, with Rohit surpassing 15,000 international career runs and unbeaten on 20 alongside Rahul (22).

POPE TO THE RESCUE

Prior to Friday's play, Pope had reached 50 on nine occasions at his home ground in first-class cricket, converting seven of those knocks to centuries.

His latest half-century did not lead to three figures, but had it not been for his measured display then the outlook of this Test would have been looking significantly bleaker for Joe Root's men.

Before the start of play, Pope was averaging 100.71 in first-class matches at The Oval, and he stepped up again.

WOAKES A DIFFERENCE MAKER AGAIN

Returning to the Test arena for the first time in over a year, Woakes made up for lost time with four wickets on day one on Thursday.

His contribution with the bat here was just as valuable. Having been on course at one stage to be trailing after the first innings, Woakes' knock of 50 – which came off 60 balls and contained 11 fours – added to the foundations Pope had built for England.

Chris Woakes made an instant impact on his return as England bowled India out for 191, only for Joe Root to fall late on as the visitors fought back on a frantic day one of the fourth Test. 

England levelled the five-match series at 1-1 with a resounding innings victory at Headingley last weekend after bowling their opponents out for only 78 on the first day. 

India struggled with the bat again after being put in by Root at The Oval on Thursday, captain Virat Kohli falling for 50 as they collapsed to 127-7. 

The recalled Shardul Thakur (57) blasted the fastest Test half-century ever made in England, reaching the landmark off just 31 balls, before India were all out in the 62nd over after the final three wickets fell for one run. 

Jasprit Bumrah (2-15) dismissed Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed to reduce England to 6-2 in a brilliant opening spell and Umesh Yadav struck a huge blow by bowling the in-form Root (21). 

England reached 53-3 at stumps - trailing by 138 - with Dawid Malan unbeaten on 26 and nightwatchman Craig Overton (one not out) ensuring no further damage was done. 

Woakes took 4-55 in his first Test for just over a year, including seeing the back of Rohit Sharma with a peach of a delivery in his first over. 

He also dismissed Ravindra Jadeja, promoted to number five in the order, and was gifted a further wicket when Rishabh Pant was caught at mid-off trying to hit over the top. Thakur was his final victim, though not before playing a potentially crucial cameo. 

Kohli showed his class with some glorious drives before he edged a great delivery from Ollie Robinson (3-38) through to Jonny Bairstow, who took four catches on his return to wicketkeeping duties with Jos Buttler absent.

James Anderson and Overton also took a wicket apiece in another relentless performance from the England attack. 

Bumrah was run out by Burns without facing a ball in a chaotic end to the India innings, but Kohli's men hit back impressively in the final session.

 

WOAKES MAKES UP FOR LOST TIME 

Woakes had not played for his country in the longest format since last August and he made up for lost time having recovered from a heel injury. 

Pant's latest rush of blood to the head gifted Woakes a third wicket and although he took some treatment from Thakur, the seamer had the last laugh when he ended his entertaining knock thanks to a well-judged review. 

THAKUR TAKES HIS CHANCE 

Thakur - recalled along with Umesh as Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma missed out - was another to make his mark, producing a swashbuckling knock after striding to the crease with his team in big trouble. 

He was dismissed without scoring in the first match at Test Bridge but went on the attack to give India some hope as he dominated a much-needed eighth-wicket stand of 63 in just eight overs, hitting three sixes and seven fours in a dramatic hour at the crease, during which he faced only 36 balls. 

England will change a winning team for the fourth Test against India, with Jonny Bairstow taking over wicketkeeping duties from the absent Jos Buttler.

Buttler is skipping the Oval clash as he and his wife await the birth of their second child, meaning batsman Bairstow will take the gloves, and England have called in Sam Billings as cover.

It means at least one change will be made to the XI that beat India by an innings and 76 runs at Headingley to square the series, and it appears likely Ollie Pope will be the beneficiary, coming in to fortify the middle order in a match that gets under way on Thursday.

Chris Woakes is another option for head coach Chris Silverwood, who has recalled the Warwickshire all-rounder after he recovered from a heel injury.

Paceman Mark Wood also comes into contention, as he shows signs of recovering well from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the Headingley match, but Saqib Mahmood has been released to Lancashire duty.

Silverwood said: "It is very pleasing that we have Chris Woakes returning to the Test squad. He has bowled well over the past week with Warwickshire without any real concerns with his heel injury.

"He is an asset we have been missing both with the ball and his ability to score runs in the middle order. We are looking forward to seeing him prepare at The Oval as we go into back-to-back Tests.

"Mark Wood is making excellent recovery from his jarred right shoulder. He bowled in the middle on the last day at Headingley with our bowling coach Jon Lewis and was starting to get through his spells pain-free.

"For the first time in this series, it is pleasing to have several options with our bowling stocks as we approach the latter stages of the series.

"We would like to wish Jos and his family all the very best for the impending birth of their second child. Unfortunately, he will miss this Test, and we'll then see if he returns for the final Test at Emirates Old Trafford.

"Jonny Bairstow will take over wicketkeeping duties, which he is relishing. As we all know, he has the skills to seamlessly take over from Jos and the ability to score crucial runs in the middle order if called upon.

"Sam Billings, who was in the Test squad for the New Zealand series earlier this summer, returns as reserve keeper. He understands how we want to approach our cricket and is a popular member of the group. He will fit in well with the rest of the group."

The absence of Buttler means England lose their vice-captain, and his replacement in that role has not yet been specified.

 

England squad for the fourth Test against India at The Oval: Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Joe Root reached 6,000 runs in one-day action as he steered England to a five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the series opener at the Riverside.

England's Test skipper did not feature in the recent Twenty20 series between the nations but returned to international duty with an unbeaten 79, in the process putting Sri Lanka's below-par total of 185 into context.

Moeen Ali weighed in with 28 after coming in at 83-4, the home team having suffered a middle-order wobble after opener Jonny Bairstow (43 off 21 deliveries) had given them a flying start.

The impressive Dushmantha Chameera struck twice but Sri Lanka's slim hopes were hit by two costly drops, all-rounder Ali put down from his first ball by wicketkeeper Kusal Perera before Root was missed in the deep when on 36. England eventually eased over the line with 91 balls to spare.

Captain Perera had top-scored with 73 but the tourists never appeared to have enough on the scoreboard in the first of three ODI games between the teams.

Chris Woakes claimed two early wickets on his way to outstanding figures of 4-18, Sri Lanka – left with a depleted squad after three players were sent home for breaching COVID-19 protocols – quickly slipping to 46-3.

They recovered thanks to a stand worth 99 as the impressive Wanindu Hasaranga contributed 54 in combination with his skipper, only to then lose their last six wickets for just 40 runs.

Sri Lanka's cause was not helped by two run outs to wrap up the innings midway through the 43rd over, David Willey having backed up opening partner Woakes by taking 3-44.

 

England held together by Root

Root is the second English batsman to register 6,000 runs in ODI cricket, with only Eoin Morgan (6,882) managing more. The right-hander reached the number in his 141st inning in the format, the same number as the legendary Viv Richards needed. Indeed, only Hashim Amla (123), Virat Kohli (136) and Kane Williamson (139) have done it faster.

Woakes keeps Sri Lanka in check

Perera became the 17th Sri Lankan batsman to register 3,000 one-day runs, though only Hasaranga offered any real support. Seam bowler Woakes set the tone from the outset for England as he ended up bowling five maidens in an outstanding 10-over stint.

Chris Woakes and David Willey have been named in England's squad for the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka at the end of June.

A key component of the side that won the 50-over World Cup in 2019, Woakes has not featured in the shortest format at international level since November 2015.

Willey, meanwhile, will hope to get the chance to impress ahead of the T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in October and November this year.

Liam Dawson is also included in a 16-man party that is minus the services of injured trio Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Reece Topley.

"With the T20 World Cup only a few months away, this summer is about perfecting our team and continue to progress on the field," England head coach Chris Silverwood said.

"We want to approach every series with an influx of players aiming to win every match and giving us the best preparation as we get closer to the tournament.

"With several high-profile players missing through injury, it allows me to look at some of our experienced players who have not featured at this level for some time.

"The likes of Chris Woakes and David Willey are very experienced cricketers, and to have them both in the mix is exciting and shows the depth of squad we have available.

"I want our team to play an attacking form of the game. I hope we can continue to excite the England fans with our approach."

The three-match series begins in Cardiff on June 23, with the second game also taking place at the same venue the following day. The Ageas Bowl will then host the finale on June 26.


England squad for T20 series against Sri Lanka:

Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

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.

Rajasthan Royals climbed off the canvas to record their first win over Delhi Capitals since April 2018, Chris Morris the hero as he blasted his side to a three-wicket win in the final over.

The Royals were on the ropes at 42-5 during their reply to the Capitals' total of 147-8, yet David Miller's fighting innings of 62 helped keep them in a see-saw contest in Mumbai.

His departure - caught in the deep trying to hit Avesh Khan (3-32) for a third successive six - left the score at 104-7, yet Morris delivered the knockout blows at the death.

Needing 27 from the final two overs, the all-rounder hammered four sixes – including two off compatriot Kagiso Rabada – to sensationally steer Rajasthan home with two balls to spare.

Delhi had suffered a poor start in their innings earlier in proceedings, a superb opening burst from Jaydev Unadkat, who finished with figures of 3-15, helping the Royals reduce their opponents to 37-4.

However, captain Rishabh Pant led the recovery mission for the Capitals, who were unbeaten in the previous five meetings between the franchises.

Lalit Yadav (20) and Tom Curran (21) made useful contributions down the order, while Chris Woakes finished up on 15 not out before playing a starring role for his team with the ball.

The England pace bowler removed international team-mate Jos Buttler for two early on, but the Royals – without the injured Ben Stokes, who will miss the rest of the campaign due to a broken finger – recovered to end Delhi's three-game winning streak at the Wankhede Stadium.

Morris shows his value

Back for a second spell with Rajasthan, who made him the most expensive buy in IPL auction history earlier this year, Morris demonstrated just why he was in such high demand.

Denied the chance to be the hero in their opening game – Sanju Samson turned down a single from the penultimate delivery against Punjab Kings, then got out when needing six to win – he benefited from some loose bowling from Delhi to cash in during the closing stages this time.

Pant down, then out

Skipper Pant rescued his team with a fluent 51 that included nine fours. However, when seemingly well set, he ran himself out trying to sneak a single, some smart work by bowler Riyan Parag seeing the left-hander dismissed by a distance.

Speaking after the game, the wicketkeeper-batsman admitted his team's score was "15-20 short", runs he could easily have provided had he not taken such an unnecessary risk.

Brilliant half-centuries openers Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw inspired Delhi Capitals to an opening seven-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings in the India Premier League.

Chennai were asked to bat when Rishabh Pant won the toss and recovered well from the early losses of Faf du Plessis for nought and Ruturaj Gaikwad to post 188-7, Suresh Raina top scoring with 54.

But Dhawan (85) and Shaw (72) scythed into what looked like a daunting chase with a stunning stand of 139 for the first wicket and skipper Pant (15 not out) was there to see the Capitals home with eight deliveries to spare.

Chris Woakes (2-18) and Avesh Khan (2-23) set the tone for Delhi as Chennai slumped to 7-2 and the seamers also returned to fine effect – Avesh persuading veteran captain MS Dhoni to drag on for a duck and Woakes bowling fellow England all-rounder Sam Curran with the final ball of the innings.

Curran plundered 34 from 15 deliveries, including two sixes off brother Tom (1-40), in a breezy effort alongside Ravindra Jadeja (26 not out), their 51-run partnership capitalising upon a rebuilding job impressively helmed by Raina.

The India batsman ploughed Marcus Stoinis over for his fourth maximum to reach 50 off 32 balls and he received useful support from Moeen Ali (36) and Ambati Rayudu (23).

A dire mix-up, during which Jadeja collided with Avesh, saw Raina run out amid a slump of three wickets for 14 runs – a blip that proved costly as Dhawan and Shaw took the Super Kings attack apart.

They motored at around 10-an-over for the majority of their partnership. Shaw had faced only 38 balls, hitting nine fours and three sixes, by the time he skewed Dwayne Bravo (1-38) to Moeen and there was little remaining doubt about the outcome when Dhawan was trapped lbw by Shardul Thakur (2-53).

England will have a new-look bowling attack on duty for the second Test as they go up against an India side determined to bounce back in the series.

James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Dom Bess were all part of the XI that helped England become the first visiting nation to win a Test at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai since Pakistan in 1999, ending an eight-game unbeaten streak for the hosts.

However, none of the trio will be involved when the two teams face each other again at the same venue.

While Archer is ruled out with an elbow injury, Anderson has been rested and Bess left out of a 12-man squad. Stuart Broad seems certain to play, with the other seam-bowling spot between Chris Woakes and Olly Stone. Moeen Ali will be the second spinner; the all-rounder has not featured in Test cricket since August 2019.

Captain Joe Root admitted it was not an easy decision to give Anderson a break considering how well he performed in the opener, but England had to look at the bigger picture during such a busy year.

"Everyone's heart was in favour of him being available for this game but also you have to look at the bigger picture and ideally if he is available for two of the last three, that is a huge asset for us with the way he is bowling and his reputation, as well as his numbers and the way he has performed in recent games," Root told the media.

India, meanwhile, head into this match under pressure; they have only ever lost the first two games of a home Test series against England once previously, when they went on to suffer a 3-1 defeat in 1976-77.

Virat Kohli pointed to a failure by the bowling unit to keep England's scoring rate in check in the aftermath of the opening defeat, with slow-bowling duo Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem struggling to provide support for pacemen Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma, as well as frontline spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

Axar Patel missed that match due to a knee injury but came through a fitness test on Thursday. Kuldeep Yadav could also get an opportunity on a pitch that, according to Ajinkya Rahane, will spin from the outset.

"I am sure it will turn from day one," Rahane said on the eve of the game. "We will have to wait and see how it behaves in the first session and take it from there."

In a boost for India, there will be fans present for the second of four matches in the series. The ground is allowed to be 50 per cent full, though there will be social distancing measures in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


Captain Kohli in the spotlight

India have now lost four Tests in a row under Kohli, who departed the tour of Australia after his side had been shot out for 36 to lose the series opener in Adelaide. He returned home for the birth of his first child, with stand-in Rahane then leading the side to a 2-1 triumph.

Kohli made scores of 11 and 72 upon his return to the XI, but those numbers were not enough to stop him slipping to fifth in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings for batsmen.

Root keeps on digging in

Root underpinned England's triumph last time out with a double hundred in a mammoth first innings of 578, in the process continuing his stunning run of form following on from a hugely successful tour to Sri Lanka.

The right-handed batsman has managed 684 runs in his previous three matches, which equates to 39 per cent of his side's total runs in Test cricket in 2021. There have been useful contributions from his top-order colleagues so far overseas, but no other batsman has reached three figures in an innings during the calendar year.

Key match facts

- England have only managed to register one Test series win in India since their 2-1 tour win in 1984-85 - their successful tour in 2012 being the solitary triumph during that period (D1 L4).
- India still lead the head-to-head record with England in Tests played at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, winning five compared to the visitors' tally of four after the series opener (D1).
- England have managed to record six overseas Test wins in succession ahead of this match – victory in this game will equal their longest ever run in the format (seven in a row between 1911 and 1914).
- Rishabh Pant has a batting strike rate of 70.6 in Test cricket, only two men (with a minimum of 600 runs scored) have higher rates for India (Virender Sehwag at 82, plus Kapil Dev at 81)
- Broad (517) is three scalps away from going into sixth place on the all-time leading Test wicket-takers list, jumping above Courtney Walsh (519); the Englishman has picked up 41 wickets at an average of 14.5 since the start of 2020.

England have replaced Stuart Broad with James Anderson as they aim to clinch a fourth successive series victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka.

A seven-wicket win in Galle gave the tourists a 1-0 lead in the rearranged series, following on from an overseas triumph in South Africa a year ago, plus successes against West Indies and Pakistan on home soil.

Joe Root led from the front with a double-century last time out and, with the recalled Jonny Bairstow and debutant Dan Lawrence also contributing runs, the tourists have gone with the same batting line-up.

Anderson comes into the side as England make just the one change, with Broad given a rest, as Mark Wood retains his place and Olly Stone misses out along with Chris Woakes. 

As for Sri Lanka, they will once again be without Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne as he continues to recover from a fractured thumb.

Kusal Mendis has been dropped after a poor run of form with the bat – he has managed just 27 runs in his last six Test innings – while seam duo Lahiru Kumara and Nuwan Pradeep, as well as wicketkeeper-batsman Minod Bhanuka, have been allowed to depart the bio-secure bubble.

The home side will be aiming to prevent their opponents from winning a fifth successive Test overseas, a feat England have not achieved since a run of seven in a row between 1911 and 1914.

Sri Lanka fought back well after being dismissed for only 135 in their first innings of the opening Test and captain Root knows England cannot expect to have things all their own way as they eye another triumph on tour.

He said: "They are a proud team and they have a great record at this ground. Not only that, they have some very talented players.

"We already saw that throughout the game with how it unfolded in the second innings. The way that they played with the bat in the second innings was very different to the first and showed that in those conditions, they are a very hard side to break down.

"We know that this isn't going to be an easy game for us."


LEACH IN SIGHT OF RECORD

Jack Leach was understandably a little rusty in the previous game, having only played in two first-class fixtures throughout 2020. However, the left-arm spinner improved as he clocked up the overs, claiming 5-122 in the second innings to leave England needing just 74 for victory.

His six in the match lifted his career Test tally in Sri Lanka to 24, just one behind Ashley Giles who sits top of the all-time list for England. Considering it is expected to be another spin-friendly surface in Galle, Leach will fancy his chances of taking top spot before the short tour concludes.

SRI LANKA AIM TO STOP THE ROT

Despite showing some defiance with both bat and ball in the opening Test, Sri Lanka have now lost three in a row. They have not suffered a longer losing run since a four-game span between December 2015 and May 2016.

Their first-innings total of 135 left them with too much ground to make up second time around, so the continued absence of opener Karunaratne is a blow.

KEY MATCH FACTS

- England will be looking to record a third successive Test series win against Sri Lanka for the first time.
- England have lost only one of their Tests since the start of 2020 (W7, D2) and are undefeated in their last six of that stretch (W4, D2) – the last time they went on a longer unbeaten run was a 13-Test span (W7, D6) from November 2012 to August 2013.
- Joe Root made 228 last time out, his maiden Test double-century in Asia. That innings included 74 runs from conventional sweep shots, almost twice the number of his previous high in a Test match (41 at Pallekele versus Sri Lanka in November 2018).
- Lahiru Thirimanne has scored 50 or more in two of his past three Test innings at Galle, after doing so only once in his previous 12 knocks at the venue.
- Jos Buttler held on to all five catching opportunities in the series opener; only once before in his Test career has he managed to claim more catches without dropping one (July 2014 v India – 6/6).

England all-rounder Chris Woakes was keen not to be drawn on Steve Smith's latest controversy - stating only the former Australia captain's actions against India were those of habit or gamesmanship.

Stump cameras showed Smith apparently scuffing up Rishabh Pant's guard in between deliveries as the India wicketkeeper struck a brilliant counter-attacking 97 in Sydney, helping the visitors to a draw in the third Test.

Smith was forced to stand down as Australia skipper and served a ban for his part in the 2018 ball tampering scandal.

His successor Tim Paine also found himself at the centre of controversy after a foul-mouthed exchange with Ravichandran Ashwin, which compounded a dreadful display behind the stumps.

Speaking ahead of England's Test series in Sri Lanka, Woakes looked to remain above the fray when it came to Smith - perhaps mindful of having just entered an Ashes year.

"I'm sure people have got their opinions on it. It's not the first time that I've seen something like that happen," he said.

"The fact it's such a big series, a big player in a big moment probably means it's been blown up a little bit.

"There's only one person who knows whether he was doing it to affect the opposition batsman or not and that's Steve himself.

"You can look at it a few different ways. You can say he was shadow batting, doing what he'd normally do and it's a bit of a habit. Or you could say that he was trying to distract Rishabh. It's one of those things."

Asked whether Australia had been shown to be "up to old tricks again", a smiling Woakes replied: "It's hard for me to say, watching from a million miles away, that he was doing it to get into the Indian batsmen's minds.

"Potentially, but as I said, there's only one person who knows exactly what he was trying to do.

"I know Tim Paine came out and backed him as you'd expect him to do. That's all I can say on the matter."

Woakes was forced to quarantine for the first week of England's tour after travelling to the airport with team-mate Moeen Ali, who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.

Despite establishing himself as an increasingly pivotal member of Joe Root's side, the 31-year-old acknowledges Thursday's first Test might come too soon for him.

"I'm certainly up against it in terms of time," Woakes said, having revealed his fitness regime over the past week amounted to workouts with fit bands and a medicine ball on his hotel balcony.

"I only had my first bowl yesterday. The other guys have been bowling for nearly a week. The chances of me playing are probably quite slim."

Nevertheless, some unexpected rainfall in Galle might persuade Root to call upon Woakes' mastery of seam and swing on a surface still expected to take plenty of turn.

"The pitch, as you'd expect, does look quite dry. But it has rained quite a bit here in the last few days and the pitch earlier this morning was a bit tacky and spikes went into the surface," he added.

"Whether that plays a part, I don't know."

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