Will Joe Root join Ricky Ponting and Virat Kohli in an elite club? Ponting’s Australia swept Sri Lanka 3-0 in a Test series in Sri Lanka in 2004 while Kohli’s India did the same last year.
Root’s England are in a position where they are favourites to sweep the three-Test series against Sri Lanka when they face each other at the SSC in Colombo starting Friday (November 23).
There’s no doubt Sri Lanka is a team on the decline, but it’s still a monumental effort from England to have won the series with a game to spare. For all their troubles, Sri Lanka are still a dangerous side at home. Ask South Africa, who were thrashed 2-0 as recently as July. For England to have put away their troubles in this part of the world and take the series is a massive achievement, especially in times where teams struggle abroad.
As is often the case in such feats, the result was possible because England have found multiple heroes. Ben Foakes and Keaton Jennings scored centuries in the first Test. Joe Root made a sparkling ton in the next. Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Ben Stokes have managed half-centuries, chipping in with crucial contributions when needed.
The spinners have stepped up too. Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and left-arm spinner Jack Leach have done bulk of the work, out-bowling their Sri Lankan counterparts. James Anderson managed only one wicket from four innings and will be rotated out for Stuart Broad, while the injured Sam Curran will make way for Jonny Bairstow, who will bat at No. 3.
Sri Lanka’s Chandika Hathurusingha remained positive saying both matches were close. England won the two games by 211 and 57 runs respectively, but there were multiple moments when the game was in the balance. Sri Lanka lost all those moments, allowing England’s lower order to take the game away.
Sri Lanka will continue to miss Dinesh Chandimal, who picked up a groin injury in the first Test. They will also be missing Akila Dananjaya, who has to travel to Australia to test his action. Lakshan Sandakan is likely to replace him in the XI.
While England have three centurions, Sri Lanka have none. Angelo Mathews has been the man in form with three half-centuries. Roshan Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne and Dananjaya de Silva too have scored fifties but Sri Lanka need to do a lot better to avoid the embarrassment of a 0-3 sweep.
The bowlers have done a fair job but will have to find ways of breaking lower order resistance; it helps that they won’t have to bowl at Curran. If they can do that, Sri Lanka can salvage some pride. Whatever happens in the Test, though, England will return home a proud bunch.
England (XI): Joe Burns, Keaton Jennings, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes (wk), Adil Rashid, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Roshen Silva, Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Malinda Pushpakumara, Suranga Lakmal(c), Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha, Dilruwan Perera, Dushmantha Chameera, Nishan Peiris, Danushka Gunathilaka.