ENGLAND TOUR OF SRI LANKA: Foakes likely to don the gloves on debut

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NEWS DESK

Further rains which ensured the tarpaulin covers on the Galle International Stadium remained on the ground for most of Monday (November 5) means Joe Root will wait until the very last moment to name England’s XI for the first Test against Sri Lanka, which begins on Tuesday. One lock, however, seems to be that Ben Foakes will take the gloves on debut, replacing the injured Jonny Bairstow. Jos Buttler will play as a specialist batsman, as he did for all but one Test last summer.

On Sunday, the England captain praised the options within the squad of 17. He was particularly effusive about how a different side could be used to play on contrasting surfaces. While he did get a look at the pitch after his official press conference – it looks mealy yellow and dry, as is the way at this venue – he wants to give himself as long as possible to make a decision. If tomorrow’s forecast is proved correct, the toss could be delayed or even only take place on day two. One thing that seems to be for certain is England will go into the match with three spinners in Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and left-arm spinner Jack Leach.

The pitch had been covered for about 24 hours after rains washed out Sri Lanka’s practice on Sunday from about midday. Once clearer skies arrived at 1pm on Monday, the covers were removed, with Stuart Broad and Paul Collingwood the first of the England party to give it a good look and a feel.

Even fans wandered out to the middle to cast their eyes on the surface, before being ushered away by security. The covers were placed back on just as Root and head coach Trevor Bayliss made their way to the middle. A quick word with those in charge saw them peeled back once more.

Today will also mark the start of a post-Alastair Cook world. The retirement of England’s leading Test run-scorer at the end of the summer not only leaves the side short of experience but also without an opening batsman who averages 53.13 in Asia. Root has encouraged those among his current charges, including Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns who will open in this Test, to take the mantle from Cook who, as of yet, has not got in touch with a “good luck” message. Not that Root minds.

Cook’s absence is also something Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal believes will tip the balance in the host’s favour. “That’s one advantage we’ve got,” stated the Sri Lanka captain. “We all know how good Alastair is. Definitely, they (England) will lose his experience of playing in Sri Lanka.”

He, too, has selection matters on his mind. Sri Lanka will decide whether to go with seven batsmen and four full-time bowlers or ditch a batsman for an allrounder. One of those bowlers will be Rangana Herath in his 93rd and final Test.

“It’s really sad for me and the team,” said Chandimal when contemplating the retirement of a player whose international career has seen him take 430 Test wickets. “We all know how much he has done for cricket in this country. Apart from that, he is a really good human being on and off the field. Especially for me, when I took over the captaincy, he gave me lot of support on and off the field. We will definitely miss him.” Courtesy Cricbuzz