By Riley Taylor
As the white-ball series finishes, England turn their attention to the First Test in Galle, with many questions to answer.
After six years and 15 different opening partners, England now have a new dilemma with their opening pair following Alastair Cook’s retirement in September.
Despite his woeful form against India, Keaton Jennings was chosen by the selectors to at least give England some experience at the top of the order. He will most likely be joined by Surrey-captain Rory Burns when he was finally given the chance, after scoring 1359 runs in the County Championship last season. Many have already questioned his unorthodox technique and whether it will be exposed by spin-friendly conditions in Sri Lanka.
Despite the lack of experience, England may give a chance to two new opening batsmen by giving Joe Denly his first England test appearance, Having already made an impressive T20 comeback following an eight-year absence, Denly will certainly have big shoes to fill.
The next major question for England will be whether to play two or three spinners. Veteran swing bowler James Anderson urged after his record-breaking test at the Oval not to rest him during the tour of Sri Lanka, but it could well be the case if England face a spinning deck in Galle.
It has been hinted at that it will be Anderson’s longtime opening bowling partner, Stuart Broad, that will be dropped if it comes to it. After a poor tour of Australia, Moeen Ali came back strong against India and has shown why he is so vital to England’s spin attack alongside Adil Rashid.
Rashid making a controversial Test comeback after opting not to play red-ball cricket for Yorkshire and England but still getting a recall after his impressive one-day display. England may have Denly as their third spin option but will most likely pick Jack Leach, a player who has suffered numerous bouts of bad luck, starting with a broken thumb which caused him to miss the Pakistan series.
Following that, Leach suffered a concussion during a game in the County Championship for Somerset, which ruled him out of the India series. Taking 146 wickets over the past three seasons has shown his worth and now he will relish the opportunity to play in a spin-friendly country.
An added issue England received during the one-day series was the injury to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. It was thought he might make a recovery before the test series, but it has been confirmed that the Yorkshire keeper will not make an appearance. As a result, fellow Surrey player Ben Foakes has earned a call-up.
This will now pose the question of who will take the gloves during the series. With a strong series against India behind him, it will be most likely that one-day keeper Jos Buttler will fill in for Bairstow.
The first Test gets underway at the Galle International Stadium at 4:30 GMT on Tuesday.