England’s unchanged team for the second Test against Sri Lanka on Wednesday means that captain Joe Root and coach Trevor Bayliss want Ben Stokes to establish himself as a regular number three – a troublesome position for England.
Stokes, who batted number five in the first Test, had been in competition with Jos Buttler for a boost up the order. Moeen Ali has fallen out of contention after scoring just three runs in two innings in the first Test.
Stokes has played 64 of his 85 Test knocks at number six. The England coaching staff believe however that his technique is suited to a higher position.
Bairstow, England’s first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman for the past three years, was believed to have recovered from ankle ligament damage suffered in the one-day series. But Ben Foakes’ stunning debut as stand-in made a change difficult.
Speaking before the line-up was announced, Root highlighted the need for the team to remain flexible.
“I think you have to adjust, to be as adaptable as possible,” said Root.
“You obviously want some sort of consistency in your top order but in tours in this part of the world, on surfaces where conditions are so extreme at times, there will be times you might want to change things round,” he said.
“I want us to take the positive option if we’re unsure.”
The England captain also had words of sympathy for Sri Lanka spinner Akila Dananjaya who will go into the match with his bowling action under investigation by cricket’s world body.
Root was questioned about Dananjaya as it was announced that England would keep the same team that hammered Sri Lanka in the first Test with Ben Stokes playing as number three batsman and Jonny Bairstow kept out despite being fit again.
Sri Lanka has insisted that the 25-year-old off-spinner Dananjaya is ready to play despite the International Cricket Council reporting him for his bowling in the first Test.
“It is an unfortunate thing he has to deal with,” said Root.
“Ultimately for us we played him at Galle pretty well throughout the last game.
“If you see anyone with a question mark by their action, you hope they get through and it doesn’t hamper their career. It is never nice to see.”
Root said the suspect action had not shocked him.
“It didn’t really stand out to me personally,” he added.
“It doesn’t matter what his action is like, it’s how we play him. It’s how it comes down to us playing the ball, being skilful enough to react to the delivery on the surface.”
The match umpires reported Dananjaya’s action after the first Test, which England won by 211 runs. He took two wickets for 184 runs.
Under ICC rules Dananjaya must undergo testing at an approved ICC centre within two weeks and he is expected to fly to Australia as soon as the second Test ends.
“There are no ICC rules saying he cannot play,” said Suranga Lakmal, who will captain Sri Lanka in the absence of injured Dinesh Chandimal.
“He can still play and he’s in a good mentality, he will still play the next match and correct his mistake.”
With AFP inputs