England round off their two-match Test series in Sri Lanka with another Test in Galle as they to look continue the good form they showed in the first Test, where they were convincing winners.  

With a big series in India to come, Joe Root’s side will be keen to continue the momentum and here’s our preview of the second Test match, which starts on Friday.

Captain fantastic Root leading by example

Having failed to reach three figures in the whole of 2020, England’s captain was badly in need of runs given his importance to the side and he duly delivered in the opening Test. The 30-year-old was back to his best with a brilliant 228 as he batted his country into the ascendancy. Root is the glue of England’s batting order and when he’s in form, the other members of it usually follow suit. Granted, this isn’t a vintage Sri Lankan bowling attack, but what better way to prepare for an Indian Test series than by scoring back-to-back 100s? Unsurprisingly, Root is the favourite at 9/4 to be England’s top first innings batsman, while if you fancy him to be top first innings batsman in an England win, that’s available at 11/2.

As good as England (11/10) played in the first Test, the coaching staff would have been slightly concerned by how uncomfortable both Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley looked. Both are seen as being mainstays of this side for years to come and in order to do that they need to be able to perform in all conditions around the world, not just in England. The sub-continental conditions are foreign to both players, but they will need to learn the best game plan with the aforementioned Indian series on the horizon. Both openers are 5/6 to score over 26.5 first innings runs.

Hosts seeking to bounce back 

It was a bit of a Test of two halves for Sri Lanka (6/4) in the opening contest. Having been skittled out for just 135 in their first innings and then not bowling as tidily as they would have liked in England’s first innings, the hosts really got their act together. They showed real tenaciousness and grit to post 359 the second time round, thanks to 72 from Angelo Mathews and a second Test century from Lahiru Thirimanne. And when they had England 14-3 in the final innings of the game, they must have been kicking themselves on how poorly they started the game.

There is clearly talent in this side and when you have players like Mathews in your side, you are always going to cause the opposition problems. The former skipper of the side is 7/2 to be his side’s top first innings batsman, the same price as Thirimanne.

As mentioned, the Sri Lankans did have England in a bit of trouble in their second innings, thanks largely to the efforts of Lasith Embuldeniya who looks a real talent. Embuldeniya has already picked up 35 wickets in just eight Tests so far, including five in the opening game last week. He bowled with confidence and skill there and had a number of England’s batsmen caught up in knots, and you feel if Sri Lanka are going to level the series it’s going to be largely as a result of how he bowls. Embuldeniya can be expected to take on the donkey work in this one and is 9/4 to be his side’s top wicket-taker in the opening innings.

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