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England play their first test match series without former captain and opening batsman, Alistair Cook.
England have started well in their first test against Sri Lanka, setting the hosts a difficult target of 462 runs to chase down. With England not having won an away series since 2016, this is an impressive start. Much is yet left to play of course.
Tuesday saw the start of England’s first test without their opening batsman and most capped player, Alistair Cook. England have struggled to find an opening partner for him over the last few years, but, for the first time since 2006, they now have to replace their all time leading run scorer as well.
The honour fell to Surrey opener Rory Burns, who opened with Keaton Jennings. In the opening test, Jennings scored 46 and 146 runs (not out), whilst Burns managed just nine and 23. Meanwhile, Moeen Ali scored a duck and three runs in his two innings whilst captain Joe Root managed a combined total of just 38 runs. It seems there are still plenty of things for England to work on then, though Ben Foakes did manage to score a century in the first innings.
With Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow injured, there were question marks as to who would replace him, with Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes vying for the gloves. In the end, it was debutant Foakes to be given the nod. Either way, it also meant that all rounder Ben Stokes batted at number 5 in a test match for the first time.
However, there are even more questions to be answered in the bowling department. The main one for many being: would England drop Stuart Broad, their second leading wicket taker, so that they could play an extra spinner? Captain Joe Root commented that “it is always hard to leave out someone who has taken over 430 wickets. For Stuart it wouldn’t so much be a case of being dropped, it would be for the balance of the team or for the situation with the surface whether we go with a different formula.”
The wickets in Sri Lanka will always suit spinners, and this will prove to be a big test for England in particular. England decided to play three spinners, in the shape of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach.
Sri Lanka are in the process of re-building and, although they may not have the superstars of years gone by, performing at home with all their spinning options readily available, it’s fair to say England will do well to win the series. They have not won in Sri Lanka since 2000/2001. So will England’s inexperienced batting line up score enough runs against the Sri Lankan spinners, and can the English bowlers take 20 wickets to win the match? Or, with to the series taking place in monsoon season, will the weather be the winner?
My prediction is a 2-0 win for England.