Cricket West Indies (CWI) Director of Cricket, Jimmy Adams, has reiterated the fact that special consideration is given to players who could have physiological limitations or chronic conditions when fitness assessment tests or conducted, as is often the case in standard international practice.

In the light of the omission of batsman Shimron Hetmyer from the West Indies squad, ahead of the tour of Sri Lanka, based on the player failing to meet the requisite fitness standards, critics have pointed fingers towards other members of the team they doubt are able to meet the requirements.

While a few expressed doubts about legendary batsman Chris Gayle’s fitness level, the majority pointed to the continued inclusion of Rahkeem Cornwall.  The off-spinner is listed as 6’ 7” and 308 pounds but has performed creditably for the West Indies on a few occasions, most recently against Bangladesh.

“As is best practice around the world, there are going to be times when players for different reasons might be unable or incapable of achieving minimum standards either across the whole battery of tests or certain aspects of it,” Adams told members of the media via a Zoom press conference call.

“There are exemptions that are given to these players and the four main areas that are considered for these exemptions would be the player’s age, individual physiological limitations, their injury history, and also their training history.  This is standard across many high-performance environments and we are no different,” he added.

“There are quite a few players that have been exempted under one of these four headings and it is something that I think maintains robustness about the situation.  If I go back and look at an Indian spinner in the 70s who had a withered arm, if he were to have an upper-body strength test he would not be able to complete that test and therefore in that area he would have to have an exemption,” Adams said.

“It is there ensuring that we do not discriminate against players that have issues, injuries, long-standing chronic things that might prevent them from completing some of these tests.”

 

Top class West Indies talent, Shimron Hetmyer, has been left out of the squad for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour after failing to meet the required fitness standard for the second time in just around one year.

The exclusion due to falling short of the fitness requirement is a repeat such issue for Hetmyer, who also missed out on selection in February of last year for a tour match against the same opponents.  The 24-year-old Guyanese batsman has been in splendid form of late, only yesterday, crafting a masterful century to push Guyana Jaguars to the semi-final of the Regional Super50 competition.

According to Cricket West Indies (CWI) stipulations, players must pass a battery of tests that measure stamina and endurance, called the Yoyo test, before being eligible for selection.

The test is, however, not without controversy as some players who do not make the 40 grade in the yoyo test are given exemptions, at times much to the annoyance of those players who fail to meet the grade.

Hetmyer will be joined on the sidelines by fast bowlers Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas, along with West Indies vice-captain and all-rounder Roston Chase.  Cottrell and Hetmyer were among 12 players who declined to take part in the team’s tour of Bangladesh earlier this month, after citing health and safety concerns.

 

 

Chris Gayle and Fidel Edwards have been recalled to the West Indies squad for next month’s T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka.

  Experienced fast bowler Fidel Edwards has been tipped to make a return to the West Indies squad, ahead of the Sri Lanka T20 series, which could mark his first appearance for the team in over eight years.

The 39-year-old pace bowler last suited up for the regional team against Sri Lanka, at Pallekele, in 2012.  Edwards has been unavailable for selection after signing a Kolpak deal in 2015.  However, the player became available again with the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and the termination of such contracts.

Earlier this year, the player announced his availability for the West Indies and also took part in the IPL and Abu Dhabi T10 League.  Despite being one of the oldest active players, in the sport, Edwards has lost none of the pace he has always been noted for and is cable of exceeding 90mph deliveries.  His pace and guile were very much on display in a fiery over against in-form young compatriot Nicholas Pooran during the T10 league.

The Barbadian-born right-arm pacer has played 20 T20 internationals for the West Indies and claimed 16 wickets.  He has also taken part in 55 Tests and 50 One-day Internationals.  Edwards hopes to be part of the T20 World Cup squad, which will attempt to defend its title in October.

  Cricket West Indies, CEO Johnny Grave, has expressed delight with the impending return of international cricket to the region, as the team prepares to host Bangladesh next month.

After weeks of negotiation and a delay due to positive COVID tests, the teams have finally settled on the official dates of the tour, which will take place in Antigua between Wednesday, March 3 and Friday, April 2.  The teams will play three T20Is, three One-Day Internationals (ODIs), and two Test matches.

With the team having played the last three Test matches away from home, in England, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka, Grave admits it will be good to see international cricket back on West Indies soil.

“It’s been a long time since we hosted Ireland in the Caribbean back in January of 2020, so I’m just delighted that we’ve been able to get Sri Lanka to fulfil their obligations under the ICC Futures Program.

“We’ve had to delay the tour by a few days due to two of the Sri Lanka party testing positive for Covid-19 but we’ve been working really closely with our counterparts at Sri Lanka cricket and we were delighted to confirm that the tour is on and that we have been able to keep all the matches, all three formats.”

The tournament will take place under biosecure conditions, with Covid protocols in full effect for the duration of the series.

Cricket West Indies has announced the dates for Sri Lanka’s upcoming tour of the Caribbean, which is scheduled to get under way next month.

The teams will play three T20Is, three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and two Test matches in a bio-secure environment in Antigua from Wednesday, March 3 to Friday, April 2.  The series will mark the fourth for the regional team since July but will be the first at home following overseas trips to England, New Zealand, and more recently Bangladesh.

The T20I series will create history as the first official international matches to be played by the West Indies Men’s team at the Coolidge Cricket Ground (CCG) and the first West Indies T20Is to be played in Antigua since 2013. As reigning ICC T20 World Cup champions, West Indies will use these matches as important preparation for the defense of their T20 World Cup title which is scheduled to be held in India later this year.

The CG Insurance ODI Series will be played at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium on March 10, 12, and 14, with the third being a day/night encounter. The CG Insurance ODIs form part of the ICC Super League and these three matches provide the opportunity for West Indies to secure their first points as the team tries to qualify automatically for the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup in India.

The two Test matches will be played at the same venue with the first match starting on Sunday, March 21 and the second starting March 29, providing the West Indies with another opportunity to win points and climb the ICC World Test Championship table following the recent win in Bangladesh.

 The last International West Indies Men’s Home Series featured Ireland in January.

 

Sri Lanka's tour of the West Indies could be rescheduled after head coach Mickey Arthur and batsman Lahiru Thirimanne tested positive for coronavirus.

Arthur and opener Thirimanne are following government health protocols after discovering they had contracted COVID-19 in the latest round of testing on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka are due to head out to the Caribbean this month, but the tour may be put back.

A Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) statement released on Wednesday said: "Following PCR Tests carried out on the provisional squad, which was preparing to take part in the national team's upcoming tour of the West Indies, head coach Mickey Arthur and Sri Lanka player Lahiru Thirimanne have tested positive for Covid-19.  

"They were detected following PCR Tests carried out yesterday for the entire 36-member squad, along with the coaching staff, net bowlers, and the HPC Staff.  

"Immediately upon identification, both Mickey Arthur and Lahiru Thirimanne have been directed to follow the government’s health protocol laid out on COVIDI-19.  

"The 36-member group commenced practices on the 28th January, in three groups and at different time periods, as a precautionary health measure. 

"Considering the current situation, SLC is exploring the possibility of rescheduling the Tour of the West Indies, which was scheduled to commence on 20th Feb, 2021.

"In the meantime, Sri Lanka Cricket will continue with normal operations, adhering to the stipulated health protocols in all its centers."

Sri Lanka were whitewashed 2-0 by England in a recent series in Galle.

 

Joe Root felt England's calmness under pressure was the key to securing victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka – but insisted there is still room for improvement ahead of the tour to India. 

England trailed after both teams had batted once in Galle, yet four wickets apiece for spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach helped turn the game their way. 

Sri Lanka rather self-destructed with the bat – something Root revealed the tourists had hoped to bring about by "creating a bit of chaos" - and left their opponents needing just 164 to seal a 2-0 series sweep. 

Dom Sibley anchored the chase, scoring 56 not out having managed only six runs combined in his three previous knocks, while Jos Buttler made an unbeaten 46 to help complete a six-wicket triumph. 

"It was a fine performance in this game. To come out on top having lost the toss on a wicket that, for the majority of the game, we had the worst part of is a testament to the character of the boys," Root said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

"In that second innings, at the back end, it was about dealing with pressure. I thought a number of guys in a very difficult run chase showed a lot of maturity, calmness and poise to see us home. It's a brilliant way to finish the series.

"When we came to bowl, it was about creating a bit of chaos, making it difficult for Sir Lanka to score boundaries.

"We knew if we could build pressure and try and really squeeze the game, we'd create opportunities on that surface. Thankfully, that worked out for us."

He added: "The one thing I'm proud of within our group is how calm we were; how clear we were over how we were going to score runs on that wicket in that chase."

England have little time to bask in their latest success, however, as they head on to India for a four-Test series. For Root, the aim is to keep on progressing during what is a hectic 2021 schedule.

Still, they have won five successive Test matches overseas for the first time since 1914, while they will be boosted by the return of Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes in India. Rory Burns is also available again; the opening batsman missed the Sri Lanka trip to be present for the birth of his first child.

"As a team, we are moving forward all the time. We are on a little bit of an upward curve and we've just got to keep on looking to get better," Root - who scored 426 runs in the series at an average of 106.5 - said.

"With four more Tests to come on this tour for us, it's really important we don't stand still. We are not happy with what we have achieved so far, we will keep looking to improve all the time. 

"There will be different challenges, different surfaces to deal with and situations to manage in the coming games, but can we have that same attitude, that same desire to want to improve all the time."

The England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed on Monday that New Zealand will visit in June, playing Root's side in Tests at Lord's and Edgbaston.

England will also play three Twenty20 fixtures and a trio of one-day games against Sri Lanka. 

England wrapped up an impressive six-wicket victory to complete a series sweep after a dramatic Sri Lanka collapse on day four of the second Test. 

Dom Sibley finished up unbeaten on 56 as he and Jos Buttler (46 not out) saw the tourists to a target of 164, the pair putting on a pivotal stand worth 75 after coming together with their team wobbling in the run chase. 

Lasith Embuldeniya claimed three of the wickets to fall as he finished with match figures of 10-210, but Sri Lanka were left to regret a shoddy batting display that saw them all out for 126 in 35.5 overs. 

England added just five runs in the morning before their first innings was wrapped up at 344, meaning Sri Lanka came out to bat again with a useful lead of 37 on a dry, turning pitch. 

However, Dom Bess and Jack Leach claimed four wickets apiece, aided by some questionable shot choices, as Sri Lanka lost the plot. They were reeling on 78-8 when debutant Ramesh Mendis was caught behind for 16 - the top score for the hosts at the time.

Embuldeniya made 40 - easily a career-best knock in all formats - thanks to six fours and a solitary six, while the more reserved Suranga Lakmal (11 not out) was happy to hang around. Eventually, Joe Root came on to claim the final two wickets in just 11 deliveries, leaving England chasing 164. 

The busy Embuldeniya was soon centre stage again as Sri Lanka chipped away to retain hope, Zak Crawley (13), Jonny Bairstow - who made 28 in a hurry - and Dan Lawrence (2) all falling to the left-arm spinner. 

Mendis claimed the prized wicket of Root, bowled off an inside edge trying to play a paddle sweep for 11, but Sibley and Buttler combined to calm any nerves, seeing their team over the finishing line with ease in the end. 

The victory means England have won five successive overseas Test matches for the first time since 1914 - they will hope to continue that run when they head to India next.

Joe Root treated his England team-mates to an education in how to play spin bowling following his domination of the Sri Lanka attack, says Jos Buttler.

Captain Root backed up his 228 in the first Test victory with a monumental 186 in Galle on Sunday, falling cruelly to a run out from the final ball of the day.

Oshada Fernando's quick thinking at short leg meant England closed day three on 339-9 - a first-innings deficit of 42.

Despite that giving Sri Lanka a slight edge in their bid to secure a series-levelling win, attention afterwards understandably focused upon Root, who passed Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower to go fourth on England's all-time list of Test run scorers over the course of a fabulous knock.

"It was quite an amazing innings," Buttler said. "To back up his double hundred in the first Test, to show the mental and physical application to go again.

"It's been a masterclass in batting against spin. It's been a great education for all of us watching from the sidelines.

"We've thoroughly enjoyed watching him and we're gutted for him getting out in that fashion at the end of the day."

Buttler, who was the only other England batsman to pass 50, shared a 97-run stand with Root for the fifth wicket and also marvelled at his skipper's powers of endurance.

The 30-year-old Root motored on during the evening session despite cramps and back pain demonstrating the toll taken.

"For all eight days of the series so far he's been out on the field," Buttler said. "This game feels a lot hotter and lot more draining than the first game, [which had] rain breaks.

"We have to praise not only the tactical and technical aspect of his game, but the physicality and concentration to apply himself for so long.

"Once again, to back up the first Test is quite amazing really."

Lasith Embuldeniya carried the fight for Sri Lanka with superb figures of 7-132, but even the in-form slow left-armer could not escape punishment from Root, who swept with authority and even unfurled an audacious switch hit to fine effect.

"There were some quite amazing shots, really," added Buttler, who is consistently England's most innovative strokemaker across all formats. "It show the confidence and the skill level is amazing.

"He even played a little late cut left-handed. It's been great to watch. His skill level is second to none."

England captain Joe Root was denied a second consecutive double century when he was run out for 186 from the final ball of day three in a gripping second Test against Sri Lanka.

The great Wally Hammond remains the only Englishman in history to have passed 200 in consecutive matches, although Root looked certain to join him as he took the fight to the hosts in majestic fashion

Root is now fourth in England's list of all-time Test runs scorers, having surpassed Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower over the course of a truly magnificent knock, which accounts for the bulk of England's 339-9 – a first-innings deficit of 42.

Before Oshada Fernando collected sharply at short leg to catch the visiting skipper out of his ground, this was another England innings that pitted two supreme performers at the top of their game against one another, with Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya taking 7-132 in a near lone response to Root's brilliance.

Embuldeniya's wide angle on the crease and ability to find biting turn accounted for openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley on day two, and he saw off Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence in similar fashion on Sunday.

Bairstow could only add four to his overnight 24 after a review showed a faint inside edge onto pad that was pouched by Oshada, while Lawrence nicked a beauty to Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

Root's immaculate sweep shot meant he was able to largely avoid such problems, even punishing the excellent Embuldeniya with his audacious switch hit.

Substantial support for the captain finally arrived in the form of Jos Buttler, whose crunching off-side drive and reverse sweep were in good order during a fifth-wicket partnership of 97.

Somewhat unfortunately, the latter shot would prove Buttler's downfall after lunch when, on 55, he struck a delivery from debutant Ramesh Mendis (1-48) into his boot and it looped up for the ever-alert Osada to catch.

The Thirimanne-Embuldeniya combination accounted for Sam Curran, Dom Bess and Mark Wood, although Bess played tidily for an important 32 in a stand of 81 as Root motored on despite beginning to struggle with cramps and back pain.

It was a monumental effort over the course of 309 deliveries that did not deserve its cruel sting in the tail.

James Anderson is picking up speed after becoming "obsessed" with watching videos of American sprint legend Carl Lewis.

The veteran England bowler bagged his 30th five-wicket Test haul with figures of 6-40 in Sri Lanka's first innings of the second Test in Galle.

It saw the 38-year-old become the oldest paceman to take a five-wicket haul in a Test played in Asia.

Afterwards, Anderson revealed that he wants to run faster than he ever has before, as part of his drive to remain a vital cog in the England team.

Anderson, whose bowling exploits were followed on Saturday by a fine batting display from captain Joe Root, accepts he will no longer play in every Test.

He was left out for the first game in this two-match series but took Stuart Broad's place this week and showed he remains a formidable force.

Only spinners Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble have taken more Test wickets than Anderson, who is always looking for a way to improve.

"Through experience, the more effort you put in, the more rewards you get," he said.

"I've worked really hard on my fitness in the last 12 months. I'm working on stuff like running technique that's going to make me quicker.

"I'm obsessed with Carl Lewis at the moment and watching him run. I don't see why I can't keep improving just because I'm getting older."

Lewis, who won four gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, sustained his track and field career into his thirties, but few sportsmen can match the longevity of Anderson.

"I'm thinking I'm still someone who can do a job for England," Anderson said. "I can still win games of cricket.

"When you do get told you're not playing, it is frustrating, but all that made me do was focus on the second Test.

"But the older I've got, the more I realise they're looking after us and trying to manage us.

"We're playing a lot of Test cricket in a short period of time so we're aware we're going to have to rest from time to time."

In reply to Sri Lanka's 381 all out, England reached 98-2 at the close, having been 5-2 at one stage.

Root (67 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (24no) will resume on Sunday, and Anderson said: "We know now we've got to bat big and we've got to bat for a long time to try to win this game.

"We just need a couple of guys to go big – a couple of decent hundreds, as we saw in the first Test match, really makes a big difference.

"I think it's pretty important to try to get a lead if we can, just thinking of how the pitch is going to go. You don't want to chase down too many in the fourth innings if we're going to win."

Root made a double century in that first Test, and went past Geoffrey Boycott in Saturday's innings to nudge up to sixth place on the list of England's all-time leading run-scorers.

"I'm pretty sure he's not thinking about milestones when he's out there," Anderson said. "I'm not sure he's that sort of player."

Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow came to England's rescue after Sri Lanka again tortured the tourists' openers with spin, leaving the second Test well poised in Galle.

Sri Lanka advanced from their overnight 229-4 to 381 all out, with James Anderson snagging 6-40, before Lasith Embuldeniya reduced England to 5-2 in their first innings.

They recovered to reach the close on 98-2, with captain Root (67 not out) and ally Bairstow (24no) showing cool-headed resilience, although the latter survived a precarious lbw call just before the close.

Root, in his 99th Test, went beyond fellow Yorkshire great Geoff Boycott's career haul of 8,114 runs at this level during his unflappable innings, going sixth on England's all-time list.

By contrast to the third-wicket pair, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley have found left-arm spinner Embuldeniya almost unplayable in this series.

The 24-year-old removed both openers for single-figure scores in each innings of the first Test and on this occasion he prised out Sibley for a duck and Crawley for just five.

Sibley was back on his stumps, floundering, when Embuldeniya breached his defences to get the lbw verdict, and Crawley was prised out by a delicious delivery that caught the edge and angled into the hands of Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

It means Sibley has made just six runs in three innings, Crawley faring little better with only 22 so far on this tour.

Fortunately for England, the Yorkshire pair of Root and Bairstow brought their experience to bear and found a way to exert control, pushing and prodding but mostly sweeping and reverse-sweeping their way to stability.

Anderson had earlier caught the eye once again, the 38-year-old producing figures that statistically rank as the fourth best of his Test career.

Already armed with three wickets from day one, Anderson made a swift impact in the morning by having century maker Angelo Mathews caught by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for 110 in the second over of the day.

Niroshan Dickwella weighed in with 92 before falling to Anderson as he and Dilruwan Perera (67) put Sri Lanka in a sturdy position.

 

England caught in a spin

While Anderson was going through his majestic repertoire, Jack Leach and Dom Bess toiled for a combined 0-195 from 64 overs.

They were made to look limited by Sri Lanka's batsmen, who handled the England spin pair far more adeptly than during the first Test, when together they snagged 14 wickets.

This time there was no penetration, but Sri Lanka's premier spinner Embuldeniya immediately found zip, accuracy and effective turn, humiliating England's top two batsmen once again.

Crawley made 267 against Pakistan at Southampton last August, and he has one innings left in Galle to show his true quality.

Kevin Pietersen was moved to post to Twitter a letter he once received from Rahul Dravid on how to play spin, urging England management to pass the guidance to the openers.

Remarkable Root

England's skipper made a double century in the first Test against Sri Lanka, and again he soon got on top of the home side's attack.

He struck seven boundaries in reaching his fifty, never looking in trouble.

Sri Lanka appealed for an lbw when Root offered no shot to a turning ball from Dilruwan Perera, but the ball started out so wide that it was always missing by a long way.

England will want more of the same from Root on Sunday, and should that be forthcoming this could turn into quite some match.

Target: Bairstow

Sri Lanka will want to break up the established partnership as early as possible on day three, with Bairstow looking the more vulnerable batsman.

If Embuldeniya finds his choice line early in the day, he will fancy removing the man who England have surprisingly chosen to rest for their upcoming series with India.

Angelo Mathews lifted Sri Lanka out of trouble with a superb century on day one of the second Test against England.

A collapse to 135 all out in their first innings was the main cause of Sri Lanka's defeat in last week's first game of the two-match rubber and they found themselves in early strife once more in Galle.

James Anderson (3-24) returned to lead the England attack and removed Kusal Perera and Oshada Fernando, the latter for nought, to leave the hosts 7-2.

But Mathews (107 not out) made the most of favourable batting conditions to lay the foundations for an imposing total, finding willing allies in Lahiru Thirimanne (43) and captain Dinesh Chandimal (52) and lead a recovery to 229-4 at stumps.

England's attack toiled hard after Joe Root lost the toss but they caused problems early on, with Sam Curran having a huge lbw shout against Kusal in the second over before Anderson added to his 600 Test wickets.

Recalled in place of long-time new ball partner Stuart Broad as England juggled their seam options with an eye on their forthcoming tour of India, Anderson persuaded Kusal into a ludicrously expansive hack that he edged to Root at slip.

Oshada was recalled to the Sri Lanka side after four ducks in five innings for Kusal Mendis, only to suffer the same fate as he edged a lifting delivery onto his stumps.

Thirimanne scored a century in the first Test, although his fine form was ultimately insufficient to repel his nemesis Anderson, who moved a ball beautifully away to encourage an edge behind and dismiss the opener for an eighth time in Tests.

Sri Lanka were 76-3 shortly after lunch at that stage. Mathews' alliance with Chandimal was certainly timely and they were able to milk England spin due Jack Leach and Dom Bess with minimal risk.

Paceman Mark Wood was the only bowler to offer sustained discomfort to each, both mentally and physically as he frequently touched 90 mph.

The over after Anderson fumbled a run-out chance at mid-on, Wood had his reward - pinning Chandimal with an in-swinger the batsman's review showed was thundering into leg stump.

Unperturbed by the end of that 117-run stand, Mathews brought up an 11th Test ton with a single off Leach and will resume alongside Niroshan Dickwella (19 not out) in the hope of kicking on to something even more substantial.

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).

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