England captain Joe Root has warned his players not to get ahead of themselves and to continue improving as they seek to wrap up the series against Sri Lanka in the second and final test at Galle International Stadium on Friday.
England won the first match at the same venue by seven wickets in a dominant performance to record a fourth successive away victory for the first time in 64 years. They have not won five tests in a row on the road since 1913.
Another victory on a famously difficult ground for visiting teams would be a feather in the cap and a big boost ahead of England’s four-test series in India that follows directly after.
“Sri Lanka are a proud team and have a great record at this ground so we have to play smart cricket again. We can’t be happy with what we have achieved on this trip so far, we need to get better,” Root told reporters on Thursday.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves and think we’re something we’re not. This will not be an easy game, we will have to play some good stuff for five days if we want to keep taking steps forward as a team.”
Root confirmed that spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali will not be available for selection after his release from Covid-19 quarantine, which will likely mean another run-out for Dom Bess and Jack Leach, who each picked up five-wicket hauls in the first test.
“The two spinners had success, but both have great attitudes where they want to get better and improve their performances.”
Sri Lanka were roundly criticised for an abject batting display in the first innings of the first test when they were skittled for 135, though they improved markedly in the second.
Batsman Angelo Mathews took the unusual step of suggesting his teammates look to Root for tips on how to master the wicket after the England skipper scored 228 in the series opener.
“Joe Root played a magnificent innings, we can learn a lot from the way he batted,” Mathews said.
“You have to find that tempo, especially in these conditions. A traditional Galle wicket is very slow and takes turn, so you need to be able to find the shots according to each bowler.
“We need to be able to understand what we can and what we can’t do on these wickets against their bowlers.”