Chris Silverwood says it is “highly likely” England will make changes in the fast-bowling attack for the second Test against Sri Lanka as they look to manage their resources during a run of six matches in eight weeks.
England selected Stuart Broad, Mark Wood and Sam Curran in their first Test line-up and it is possible that all three could be rested for the second match which begins in Galle on Friday (January 22). “We’re training again tomorrow so we’ll see how everyone has pulled up,” Silverwood said. “Looking at we’ve got in front of us, it’s highly likely there will be rotation and rests with the seamers line-up.”
Silverwood confirmed that Chris Woakes, who was not deemed fit for the opening Test after having to quarantine for seven days as a close contact of Moeen Ali, who had COVID-19, is ready to be considered for selection while James Anderson and Olly Stone are also in the squad and will come into consideration. If Stone were to get the nod, it would be for his Test debut.
“I am excited about him,” Silverwood said. “We’ve Wood, Stone and [Jofra] Archer who can also hit 90+ mph. I think it’s great to have that in your armoury. What we’ve seen from Olly is that he hits the deck hard and bowls at pace. He is getting better and better in the areas he is bowling and the understanding of what he’s trying to do and the plans he is putting in place.
“We talk about having a varied attack and having everybody fit and ready go. At some point we probably do need to get him into the attack if we can. He’s got to earn his way there, which he is doing, he’s working hard and doing everything we ask of him. It would be great to get some Test experience in him at some point, either here or India.”
While the fast-bowling stocks are back up to full-strength, Silverwood said Moeen is unlikely to feature in the second Test as he continues his recovery from coronavirus. It means that England are likely to stick with the twin spin attack of Dom Bess and Jack Leach who played in the opening Test, sharing 14 wickets between them, including a five-wicket haul each, despite both admitting that they had not bowled as well as they would have liked.
“I thought they went better as they went on,” Silverwood said. “It was great to win the Test but I wouldn’t say we were at our best. I expected a little bit of rustiness. If you think we’ve not played since last summer, and the short prep going into this. I thought the two spinners got better as they went on. Started hitting their straps, finding their lengths and pace.
“For getting a game under their belt, they’ll come out better for that. I think the fact the two of them got five wickets each will do them a world of good from a confidence point of view as well. It was really pleasing to see that.”
Although the batting line-up is likely to remain unchanged for the second Test, England’s management face some tricky decisions for the India tour. Given the contributions of Dan Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow in the first Test, and the likely return of Rory Burns, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope for the series in India, competition for places in England’s batting ranks is as strong as it has been for some time.
“The best type of headaches,” Silverwood said. “I’d be more worried if it was the other way. Dan did exceptionally well in this Test. He conducted himself in the way I expected, to be honest. He did it his way. He is self-assured. He has confidence. For him to get runs in the first innings and guide us home in the second was great experience for him and he made the best impression he could on his first outing.”
England’s seven wicket-victory was their fourth consecutive win away from home, something they last managed in the 1950s. Their performance followed the template of how Silverwood and Joe Root want England to play. “It’s not rocket science,” Silverwood said. “It’s exactly what I stated when I first came into the job really: big first innings runs, put the opposition under pressure and skilful bowling.
“One of the things that we have done with the bat is we’ve scored 400 on many occasions: I think we’ve gone beyond 400 six times in 12 innings. I think that was the stat. Which shows we are building towards what we’ve said we were going to do.
“With the ball, we’ve been relentless. It’s what we’ve done in South Africa and it worked there. We’re looking to be relentless this winter. We’ve got variation in the attack. It’s just becoming really, really good at doing the basics well and implementing the plans that we put in place that we said we were going to do at the start of New Zealand [in 2019], when the journey began.
“The lads were fantastic. Look at the partnerships between Rooty and Jonny and Rooty and Dan Lawrence, two fantastic 100+ partnerships. A lot of good came out of the Test, a lot of good cricket played. We are pushing forward on the plans we are making, looking for solutions all the time, that’s what we did. We found a way to win this Test match by seven wickets, so a lot of credit to the lads.
“At the same time, do I think we could be better? Yes, I think we could be better. But to achieve what we did was pretty good. The way Broady and Woody bowled after lunch on the fourth day, they really set the tone. They bowled nine overs for five or six runs. Everybody who went on the park put in a really good shift for us. I think it’s a fantastic achievement.”
With England heading to India straight after the second Test, Silverwood knows the importance of backing up the victory in the first match against Sri Lanka with another strong performance in Galle. “If we can go into that [India] series with a 2-0 win it would do us a world of good confidence wise. Going into that series having played two Tests and having got back into the swing of Test cricket, will also do us a world of good.
“Getting a game under the lads’ belts, they will be better for it. Another game, more prep, we’ll improve again. All being well by the time we get to India we’ll have hit our straps fully and be ready to hit the first game hard.”