Byrne starts as Ireland make four changes for England game

By Sports Desk November 18, 2020

Ross Byrne will start at fly-half in one of four changes to the Ireland team for Saturday's Autumn Nations Cup showdown with England at Twickenham.

Byrne replaces captain Johnny Sexton, who sustained a hamstring injury in the first match of the tournament against Wales last Friday.

Second row James Ryan takes over as skipper for the first time, while CJ Stander returns at blindside flanker and Peter O'Mahony will don the number seven shirt, with Caelan Doris selected at number eight.

Centre Bundee Aki replaces the injured Robbie Henshaw following the 32-9 win over Wayne Pivac's struggling Wales side, partnering Chris Farrell.

Jamison Gibson-Park retains his starting role at scrum-half, so Conor Murray will be on the bench once again for the clash with the Six Nations champions, who thrashed Georgia 40-0 last weekend.

Hugo Keenan gets the nod at full-back, with James Lowe and Keith Earls keeping their places on the wings.

 

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, James Ryan (captain), CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale.

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    England lost early wickets in their run chase but remain on course for victory in the first Test against Sri Lanka, finishing day four on 38-3 in pursuit of a target of 74. 

    Having battled hard to make 359 all out in their second innings, Sri Lanka gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Lasith Embuldeniya quickly removed England openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley. 

    The run out of captain Joe Root, who was called through for a single that was never on before falling over as he dived to unsuccessfully make his ground, left the tourists teetering at 20-3. 

    However, Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence steadied the nerves, seeing England through to stumps without any further setbacks. The duo will resume on day five needing a further 36 to seal the series opener. 

    Sri Lanka will be left cursing their first-innings shortcomings with the bat, particularly after a second Test hundred from Lahiru Thirimanne underpinned a far-improved display second time around. 

    England did remove nightwatchman Embuldeniya early but were made to work hard for wickets after that, Jack Leach the pick of the attack as he finished with figures of 5-122. 

    Sam Curran eventually ended Thirimanne's defiance when the opener had 111 to his name, while the hosts were still in deficit when stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal edged Dom Bess (3-100) to Root at first slip.  

    The same bowler accounted for Niroshan Dickwella, who made 29, but Angelo Mathews proved to be a familiar thorn in England's side. 

    Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler secured his first stumping in Test cricket as some smart glovework ended a lively cameo from Dilruwan Perera (24), while Mathews was the last man out midway through the final session.  

    The former Sri Lanka skipper had battled for nearly six hours before Leach tempted him into a leaden-footed drive, ending his resistance on 71. England appeared frenetic at the start of their chase on a dry, turning surface, but will still be confident of completing the job on Monday.


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    Thirimanne's previous Test century also came at the same venue; he made 155 not out against Bangladesh back in March 2013. The left-handed opener may not have featured in this match had captain Dimuth Karunaratne not been ruled out with a fractured thumb, but he seized his opportunity.

    In total, he faced 251 deliveries and hit 12 boundaries, helping at least restore some pride for Sri Lanka after they had been dismissed for 135 on a dismal opening day.

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    Leach had not played in a Test since November 2019, since when an illness and the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted him to just two first-class appearances. The left-arm spinner could be forgiven for a little rustiness, then.

    However, he stuck manfully to his task during the innings, sending down 41.5 overs to claim his second five-wicket haul in Tests. His other also came against Sri Lanka, at Pallekele back in November 2018.
     

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    Root brought up his 18th century in the longest format and reached 168 not out before rain and bad light spared Sri Lanka the punishment of an evening session on day two.

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    He probably took a light lunch, having ended the first session on 99 in pursuit of a first ton in the longest format since November 2019.

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    Sri Lanka's spinners have matched their batsmen for ineptitude at times, with Dilruwan struggling for length before finding some rhythm prior to tea and leg-spinner Hasaranga De Silva (0-63) going at more than four an over.

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