JONNY Bairstow will play his first Test match for more than a year back in the country where he last shone brightest.
48 of Bairstow’s 70 caps have come as a wicket-keeper batsman, but he will be asked to play as a specialist No.3 batsman this week in exactly the same role as he did when he scored 110 in Colombo at the end of 2018.
The recall means Joe Root can continue to bat at his preferred number four, while Essex’s Dan Lawrence is set to make his debut at five.
“Jonny is a world-class player,” said Root ahead of a two match series with both games at Galle.
“We’ve seen how good he is over the last couple of years in white-ball cricket and he’s got a wealth of experience and he’s had good success here in the past.
“It’s a good opportunity for him and he’ll certainly be trying to grab it with both hands to make a mark in the Test team again.
“Jonny will slot in at number three and I will be batting at number four, but we haven’t settled on the full team. I’d like another look at the wicket first.”
Root knows that he has to accept his side will be under-cooked and under-strength when they start the first Test on Thursday but the skipper is still confident of forcing a positive result.
As they get ready for a spinner’s paradise in Galle, England have had just one day of ‘competitive’ cricket since they arrived in the country, a 50-over inter-squad game, on a green seaming pitch two hours away in Hambantota, not exactly what they can expect on Thursday.
There is no Ben Stokes or Jofra Archer on this two Test tour either, something that has been called an advantage by the home side.
There is also no Moeen Ali due to his bout of Coronavirus, and no 2020 player of the year, Chris Woakes due to his own precautionary isolation.
“It’s certainly different and the preparations and build-up time is not ideal,” said Root. “There’s no point hiding behind the fact: we haven’t had the ideal lead up to this series.
“It’s probably the shortest lead up we’ve ever had going into an away Test match series, but that’s part and parcel of playing in this era.
“We’re making sure we look after our players as well as possible, there’s a hectic schedule this year so making sure we rest and rotate appropriately is going to play a big factor in that.
“That doesn’t take anything away from the group of players and the responsibility they have to put a performance in.”