While England only needs a draw in Galle to clinch another test series in Sri Lanka, it’s a result that will be far from the minds of Joe Root’s lineup when the second test starts Friday.
England is in fourth spot on the ICC Test Championship standings, behind India, New Zealand and Australia. The final will be played in June and, to remain in calculations, England need to win the second test against Sri Lanka and then travel to India and win that series, too.
England hasn’t lost a series in Sri Lanka since 2007, having generally countered spin bowling well to find success.
Root was in command in the first test, scoring 228 in the first innings to set England on course for a seven-wicket win after Sri Lanka was skittled for 135 on day one.
But it was his second innings — run out for one as England slipped to 14-3 chasing a very modest target — that he'll be aiming to address when he plays his 99th test starting Friday.
England openers Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley were each dismissed for single digit scores in both innings in Galle, but Root has backed his openers to establish a better foundation in the second match.
Daniel Lawrence made his test debut batting at No. 5 and after 73 in his first innings, he was composed and added 21 in a 62-run partnership with Jonny Bairstow that ushered England to victory.
England has a few options and could potentially make some rotations – especially fast bowlers - with a four-test tour of India coming up next.
Jimmy Anderson missed the opening test but could return for the second. Stuart Broad played in the first test but may get a rest. England also could swap Olly Stone for Mark Wood, who provides outright pace, while Chris Woakes and Sam Curran could be competing for the allrounder spot.
Sri Lanka is expected to make changes for the match. The hosts began the series with 22 players entering the bio-secure bubble.
However, five players were sent home after Sri Lanka Cricket expressed dissatisfaction over some engaging in card games while the batting was collapsing on day one of the first test.
Seamer Suranga Lakmal and top-order batsman Oshada Fernando are expected to return to the lineup after recovering from injuries. Lakmal will replace Wanindu Hasaranga, and Fernando will come in for Kusal Mendis.
Spin bowling allrounder Ramesh Mendis could make his debut if Sri Lanka decides to leave out allrounder Dasun Shanka.
Sri Lanka (from): Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Dushmantha Chameera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Niroshan Dickwella, Lasith Embuldeniya, Asitha Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Angelo Mathews, Ramesh Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Dasun Shanaka, Roshen Silva and Lahiru Thirimanne.
England (from): Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Daniel Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena and Ruchira Palliyaguruge, Sri Lanka.
Third Umpire: Lyndon Hannibal, Sri Lanka. Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle, Sri Lanka