England were by far the better side in the first Test, but Sri Lanka, usually solid at home, will back themselves to level the three-Test series in Pallekele.
The first Test was also Rangana Herath’s international farewell, and it didn’t go too well for the champion left-arm spinner or his team. Herath picked up just three wickets in two innings, and Sri Lanka went down by 211 runs after folding for 203 and 250.
They need a lift now. Unfortunately for them, they will have to do it without the services – and leadership – of Dinesh Chandimal, who will be out for around two weeksbecause of a grade one muscle tear in his groin.
In his place, the Sri Lankans have Charith Asalanka, the promising 21-year-old batting all-rounder with no international experience.
Whether Asanka gets into the XI remains to be seen, but Suranga Lakmal will definitely be leading the team out in Chandimal’s absence, and he will hope to build on his incredible captaincy record – Sri Lanka have won all three Tests Lakmal has captained them in, twice at home against South Africa and once away in Barbados.
One of the other constants for Sri Lanka in those two Tests against South Africa – in July 2018 – was Dimuth Karunaratne. He was Player of the Match in both games after hitting 53 and 85, and 158* and 60.
More of that is something Lakmal, and Sri Lanka, will hope for from their star Test opener. Karunaratne didn’t have a good time in Galle, but he must lead the Sri Lankan revival with the bat, along with the likes of Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, and others.
From England’s point of view, most boxes were ticked in Galle. They countered the threat of Herath and the rest of the Sri Lankan spinners with some excellent application. It could have gone away from them in the first innings, but debutant Ben Foakes shone bright with a 107, and Keaton Jennings took centre stage the second time with an unbeaten 146.
More importantly, their spin trio of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach picked up eight wickets in each Sri Lankan innings – that’s a big reason for confidence for the visitors and something to be wary of for the home team.