Sri Lanka v England: Joe Root looking to lead from the front

Joe Root
Joe Root’s last Test century came against New Zealand in November 2019
Venue: Galle Date: 14-18 January Time: 04:30 GMT
Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

Captain Joe Root says he will look to lead his much-changed England team “from the front” in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Thursday.

Root did not make a Test century in 2020 and will be without all of Ben Stokes, Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Jofra Archer.

“You want to lead well and make good tactical decisions, but you also want to be scoring runs,” said Root.

“I’ll be looking to do that from the first Test onwards.”

The 30-year-old: “My target is to make sure I’m leading from the front with the bat.

“That’s certainly a big driver for me this winter.”

  • There will be live and exclusive radio commentary of England’s series against Sri Lanka on Test Match Special from 04:15 GMT on Thursday morning.

With Stokes rested, Burns on paternity leave and Pope still recovering from a dislocated shoulder, England’s top five is likely to be Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Root and the debuting Dan Lawrence.

Even though Bairstow has played 70 Tests, Root, with 97 caps, will still have more than the rest of the top five combined.

On top of that, with Moeen set to miss the entire two-Test series after contracting coronavirus and Woakes only just out of isolation after being deemed a close contact, England will play a Test without all of Stokes, Woakes and Moeen for the first time since the first Ashes Test in Brisbane in November 2013.

If one of veteran pace bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad is rested, England will make as many as five changes from their last Test against Pakistan in August.

All of this is against the backdrop of staying in a bio-secure bubble while in Sri Lanka, and their on-field preparation being limited to just one day of an internal warm-up match.

“We feel we’re as ready as we can be,” Root told BBC Sport.

“It’s very different, there will be different challenges throughout this winter that we’ve never faced before.”

The series in Sri Lanka is rescheduled from last March, when it was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Immediately afterwards, England will tour India, with the home summer set to include a return series against India and two further Tests against an unconfirmed opponent.

The Twenty20 World Cup is in the autumn, with the year concluding with a bid to regain the Ashes in Australia.

“With the amount of cricket and the opportunities that lie ahead, it’s a really exciting time for me and the whole team,” said Root.

“It would be really nice to get off to a good start, to carry that forward to the rest of the winter and beyond.”

England won their last series in Sri Lanka 3-0 in 2018. A 2-0 win this time around would keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the World Test Championship final, to be held in England this summer.

Sri Lanka lost their last series, away to South Africa, 2-0.

They were badly hit by injuries on that trip, which only concluded last week, but they have been able to recall experienced batsmen Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal for the first Test.

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