After 10-month delay, England get Covid-hit Sri Lanka Test series underway



Ten months after aborting their tour of Sri Lanka as the pandemic advanced, England will finally play the first Test on Thursday with the coronavirus still causing problems.

Joe Root’s team, missing Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, need a convincing win in the two-match series to keep alive their hopes of reaching the World Test Championship final, reports AFP.

All-rounder Moeen Ali is also out of the two-Test series’ opener after testing positive for the coronavirus on arrival in the island on January 3.

After England left Sri Lanka without playing a Test last March — and cut short a tour of South Africa in December over coronavirus fears — it has been an unsettling time for the team.

But the players, living in a bio-secure ‘bubble’ in Sri Lanka, have remained united throughout, according to wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow.

“Everyone’s together. That’s been a strength of the team, the unity. It’s been a real key throughout this whole period of Covid,” he said.

Bairstow, who last played a five-day match in late 2019, is expected to return to the Test team in Galle.

All-rounder Chris Woakes admitted that chances of him playing the first game remain “quite slim” after being a close contact of Moeen and isolating for seven days.

“I was certainly hoping to force my way in and with no Stokesy here it emphasises that an all-rounder’s role which myself or Sam Curran could fill to balance the team a bit,” said the paceman and a right-hand batsman, who started training with the squad on Monday.

“A little frustrating that I can’t do that for this Test, but I have got my head round the situation.”

With Moeen’s isolation only ending Wednesday, Dom Bess and Jack Leach will be the premier spin bowlers in the 18-member squad.

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