Sri Lanka v England, 3rd Test, Colombo November 22, 2018

Sri Lanka seek confidence, England a whitewash

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England's attacking approach needs Root 'gold dust'

Big Picture

What can Sri Lanka salvage from here? They've lost both Tests so far. They are without their captain due to injury. Their best bowler from the previous Test is off in Brisbane, having his action assessed. Having come into the series as mild favourites (they had either won or drawn their three previous series this year), they are now gasping. A battling performance their showing at Pallekele may have been, but there is the very real possibility that they could be whitewashed on home soil by a non-Asian team - something that has not happened since the great Australia side visited in 2004.

England have essentially already achieved their goals for the tour, winning each of the three series comfortably. They want to get to No. 1 in the world, so a whitewash will serve those purposes beautifully. But there are gaps to fill yet. Jonny Bairstow looks like he will be the latest No. 3, following experiments with Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes. Stuart Broad comes in for his first Test of the series, with James Anderson exiting. Incredibly, these changes mean that Ben Foakes - the best batsman of the series so far - bats as low as No. 8.

Perhaps what largely remains for Sri Lanka is to gain some confidence ahead of their bumper southern hemisphere summer. The team leaves for New Zealand on December 4, and those who play all three formats may not return to the island until the final week of March. Two-Test series against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa beckon.

Jack Leach, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid shared 19 of Sri Lanka's 20 wickets © Getty Images

Form guide


Sri LankaLLWWW (completed matches, most recent first)
England WWWWL

In the spotlight

Kusal Mendis is Sri Lanka's future. Or at least, he is supposed to be. Having played some stunning innings, Mendis has made plain his talent, but over the last 18 months there have also been some haunting dips in form. He was already dropped once from the Test team, for last year's tour of India, before he made a strong comeback earlier this year against Bangladesh. Having not crossed fifty since the West Indies series in June, he is now firmly under the microscope again, and desperately needs runs in Colombo.

For so long, Jonny Bairstow seemed an almost indispensable member of England's batting order, but Foakes' rocket-powered arrival in this series has put substantial pressure on Bairstow. As a wicketkeeper, Foakes appears to clearly be the better option, having done an outstanding job to the spinners through the series. In order to remind the selectors of his value, Bairstow must now make the trek up to No. 3 and produce runs as a specialist batsman. It has long been argued that relieving him of the gloves may free him up as a batsman, but that remains to be seen.

Team news

Danushka Gunathilaka has been drafted into the squad in place of Dinesh Chandimal, and may push the under-performing Kaushal Silva out of the second opening spot. Left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan is likeliest to come in for Akila Dananjaya, who is in Australia for his biomechanics test.

Sri Lanka: (possible) 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka , 3 Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Roshen Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal (capt), 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Malinda Pushpakumara

For England, Broad and Bairstow come in for Anderson and the injured Sam Curran.

England: (possible) 1 Rory Burns, 2 Keaton Jennings, 3 Jonny Bairstow, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Ben Stokes 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Ben Foakes (wk), 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 Jack Leach

Pitch and conditions

Another turning pitch has been prepared - one just like the one at Pallekele, said Sri Lanka captain Suranga Lakmal.

Stats and trivia

  • England have not whitewashed an opposition away from home, in series three games or longer, since 1963.

  • Broad presently sits at eighth equal - alongside Rangana Herath - on the Test wicket-takers' list with 433 dismissals. He needs two more to get past Kapil Dev and move to seventh.

  • Mendis has not made fifty in his ten most-recent innings. In that stretch, he has got past 15 on seven occasions.

    Quotes

    "We can't be making spinning pitches and keep letting their tail get runs. We have a plan to stop them. We gave the spinners a lot of overs at the tail in the previous games because the pitch suited them. But as a seam bowler, maybe there will be a change in this match."
    Suranga Lakmal hints he could do more bowling in Colombo

    "There's only been two other sides who have won 3-0 out here in Test cricket so it would be a brilliant achievement which would fill us with a huge amount of confidence going into the rest of the winter."
    Joe Root eyes a rare whitewash of Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka

    Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf

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