In-form West Indies middle-order batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, has credited brief advice received from top-class India batsman Virat Kohli as helpful in changing his mindset towards scoring runs.

The 29-year-old scored his first century against England in 2015, a plucky 112 unbeaten in a draw in Antigua.  Following that impressive achievement, however, Blackwood seemed unable to cross the double-digit threshold.  In fact, before finally breaking the streak with 104 against New Zealand, in December, Blackwood had managed to score 10 half-centuries in-between but always fell short of a triple-digit score.

Included in that number were some figures frustratingly well clear of the 50 mark, but falling just short of the 100 mark, when for all intents and purposed the batsman seemed well set to do so.  The tally includes three scores in the 90s.  He scored 92 against Sri Lanka, in Galle, in 2015; 95 against Pakistan, in Abu Dhabi, in 2016, and 95 against England, in Southampton, in July of last year.  Prior to that, Blackwood also registered 85 against England, in Bridgetown, in May 2015.  During India’s tour of the West Indies, Blackwood took the opportunity to seek the advice of run-machine Kohli when the two briefly interacted off the pitch.

“I just asked him how come all the time I score so many half-centuries and just one century, and he just replied, ‘What did you do when you scored the century? How many deliveries did you face?’ I said I faced 212, and he said that’s it, once you can bat some balls you will score runs,” Blackwood recalled.

“I took a lot from that and I’ve always told myself, after that conversation, once I can bat over 200 balls or 300, I’m going to score runs.  Once I’m there, the way I bat, I’m going to score runs regardless of who I’m playing against or where I’m playing.”

Out of favour West Indies batsman Shai Hope and brother Kyle will be among three players to miss out on the CG Insurance Super50 Cup, after returning positive COVID-19 results in the latest round of PCR tests.

The Hope brothers, who would have represented Barbados Tridents, will be joined on the sidelines by left-handed opener Trevon Griffith who was part of the Guyana Jaguars batting line-up.  The latest round of tests was conducted on Sunday.

The Barbados Pride have already named Zachary McCaskie and Tevyn Walcott as replacements for the Hopes, while Kemol Savory has been named as the replacement for Griffith in the Jaguars squad.

The trio will remain in their respective territories where there will be required to follow local COVID-19 protocols.

All other members of the Barbados Pride and Guyana Jaguars squads returned negative COVID-19 tests and will undergo second tests on Thursday, January 28 before travelling for the tournament, as part of CWI's established protocols.

The CG Insurance Super50 Cup will be played at the Coolidge Cricket Ground and Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua from Sunday, February 7 to Saturday, February 27. On opening day, Leeward Islands Hurricanes will host arch-rivals Windward Islands Volcanoes at CCG.

 

West Indies fast bowler, Kemar Roach, insists he is ready for the challenge of trying to take wickets on Bangladesh pitches, despite the surfaces being more suited to spin-bowling.

Despite the presence of several spinners in the squad, the 32-year-old is expected to lead the West Indies bowling line-up, along with fellow pace bowlers Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph.  If the dominance of spinners in the One Day International series, on pitches that offered very little assistance to pace bowlers, is anything to go by they will certainly have their work cut out.

Having been in Bangladesh on two prior Test series, Roach would know first-hand what it takes to succeed on spin-friendly terrain.

In 2011, he claimed 0 for 52 off 9 overs and 1 for 49 off 13.2 overs in the second Test of the series.  When he returned in 2018, he claimed 1 for 74 off 18 overs in the first Test and 2 for 61 in 25 overs as Bangladesh made a mammoth 500 in the second Test.

“It mostly favours the spinners but I think there is enough there for fast bowlers to get something as well.  It’s just about having your plans, executing, and being disciplined,” Roach told members of the media via a press conference from Bangladesh on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be tough, we know we have to bowl a lot more overs to get our rewards but once you are willing to put the work in you can get some rewards over here…so it’s going to be tough but I’m up for the fight.”

The Windies have had recent success with pace bowling in Bangladesh with Tino Best claiming a five-for in 2012 and Fidel Edwards claiming 8 wickets in the 2011 series.

 

West Indies spinner, Rahkeem Cornwall, believes the unusually long preparation time before the start of the Bangladesh Test series has been beneficial for players needing to get used to ‘difficult’ conditions.

The regional team arrived in Bangladesh on January 10 and was required to quarantine for 7 days based on the country’s COVID-19 protocols.  Since clearing that hurdle, however, the Test team has been free to train and will not start the series until February 1.

The Asian team is known for being particularly difficult to beat on their home turf and easily dispatched the West Indies 2-0 on their last visit in 2018.  One of those advantages is said to be the team’s pitches.

“It has helped (extra time) you have to adapt to these conditions. These conditions are difficult to play in, so the more time we get to understand the conditions is the better it is for us,” Cornwall said.

“It spins a bit more here.  It is always going to be drier than the Caribbean.  So, we just have to adapt to it and play to the best of our ability,” he added.

The inexperienced West Indies team will be hoping for a better showing than in the recently concluded One Day International (ODI) series where the team was summarily swept aside 3-0.  The ODI batting line-up found the top class Bangladesh spinners on the surfaces a difficult task to cope with.   

The CG Insurance Super50 Cup bowls off on Sunday, February 7 with the Leewards Hurricanes taking on the Windwards Volcanoes at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only 19 matches will be played in the tournament scheduled to conclude on February 27.

According to Cricket West Indies, the health risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruption to all domestic cricket since late March 2020, with no competitive cricket allowed regionally except for an abridged version of the Caribbean Premier League which took place last August in Trinidad.

This year’s annual CG Insurance Super50 Cup will provide a platform for the region’s six major cricketing rivals to clash in 19 action-packed 50-over matches starting from Sunday, February 7 when Leeward Islands Hurricanes host the Windward Islands Volcanoes.

The tournament will come to an exciting climax when the new champions are crowned on Saturday, February 27.

The 2019-20 champions, West Indies Emerging Players, are unable to defend their 2019 trophy due to COVID-19 constraints, however, several of those players now feature in the squads of the six competing franchise teams, one of which will emerge as the CG Insurance Super50 Cup champions.

Each team will play each other on a round-robin basis with the top four teams qualifying for the semi-finals and the opportunity to reach the grand final.

Matches will be played at Antigua’s two international cricket venues - the Coolidge Cricket Ground (CCG) and the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium (SVRS). There will be 13 matches at CCG including the semi-finals and final, and six matches at SVRS.

West Indies captain Kieron Pollard said it was good to have regional cricket back after a one-year break.

"It is very good that cricket is coming back to the Caribbean ... players will get the opportunity to showcase their skills and entertain our fans. It has been a trying 2020 for cricketers and the whole Caribbean, so it is really good that we have the CG Insurance Super50 Cup being played at this time and hopefully it can unearth some new talent,” he said.

CWI has been working closely with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sport in Antigua & Barbuda to orchestrate logistics and agree the safety and medical protocols for the commencement and duration of the tournament.

All players, support staff, match officials and supporting professionals will be tested with negative COVID-19 results before their arrival into Antigua. Players, support staff and match officials will operate within a bio-secure bubble and will be tested at regular intervals during the tournament with assistance from the local Ministry of Health and CARPHA.

 

“A huge amount of planning and work has been put in to ensure that the Super50 Cup can return and CWI would like to offer our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, title partners CG Insurance, our host broadcasters ESPN Caribbean and our colleagues at the Leeward Islands Cricket Board and the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association, for all of their support in helping to stage the tournament during these unprecedented times,” said CWI CEO Johnny Grave.

Meanwhile, Naz Farrow, CEO of CG Insurance said the company was happy to be able to continue supporting regional cricket.

“CG Insurance is proud to sponsor the CWI Super50 Cup and thrilled to be a part of the first tournament of 2021. We are happy to support the many players and organizers involved and recognize the major efforts that have gone into the preparation of this event during these unique times. By partnering with the CWI series, we have the opportunity to support our various Caribbean nations and to showcase that we are stronger together,” he said.

The CG Insurance Super50 Cup is the marquee 50-over event in the West Indies featuring the six long-standing territorial rivals– Barbados Pride, Guyana Jaguars, Jamaica Scorpions, Leeward Islands Hurricanes, Trinidad & Tobago Red Force, and the Windward Islands Volcanoes.

This is the second edition of the Super50 Cup featuring CG Insurance as title sponsors, and the event promises to stage big performances and memorable moments as the teams go in pursuit of winning the coveted CG Insurance Super50 Cup and being awarded the Sir Clive Lloyd Trophy.

Below is the match schedule for the CG Insurance Super50 Cup

 

Sun, Feb 7 - Leewards Hurricanes v Windwards Volcanoes (day match)  - CCG

Mon, Feb 8 - Guyana Jaguars v Barbados Pride - CCG

Wed, Feb 10 - Leewards Hurricanes v Barbados Pride - CCG

Thur, Feb 11 - Jamaica Scorpions v Trinidad & Tobago Red Force - SVRS

Fri, Feb 12 - Leewards Hurricanes v Guyana Jaguars - CCG

Sat, Feb 13 - Windwards Volcanoes v Trinidad & Tobago Red Force - CCG

Sun, Feb 14 - Jamaica Scorpions v Guyana Jaguars - CCG

Mon, Feb 15 - Trinidad & Tobago Red Force v Barbados Pride - SVRS

Tue, Feb 16 - Windwards Volcanoes v Jamaica Scorpions - CCG

Wed, Feb 17 - Leewards Hurricanes v Trinidad & Tobago Red Force - CCG

Thu, Feb 18 - Windwards Volcanoes v Barbados Pride - SVRS

Fri, Feb 19 - Leewards Hurricanes v Jamaica Scorpions - SVRS

Sat, Feb 20 - Guyana Jaguars v Trinidad & Tobago Red Force - CCG

 

Sun, Feb 21 - Barbados Pride v Jamaica Scorpions - CCG

Mon, Feb 22 – Windwards Volcanoes v Guyana Jaguars - SVRS

Wed, Feb 24 - SEMI-FINAL 1 - CCG

Thur, Feb 25 - SEMI-FINAL 2 - CCG

Fri, Feb 26 - Fifth placed v Sixth placed -SVRS

Sat, Feb 27 – FINAL - CCG

Babar Azam will finally get the chance to lead Pakistan in Test cricket as a two-match series against South Africa begins in Karachi on Tuesday.  

Batsman Babar was appointed to the role last November, yet missed both Tests on the tour of New Zealand, as well as the Twenty20 series that followed, after suffering a fractured thumb during a practice session.  

Mohammad Rizwan took charge in the regular skipper’s absence, though he was unable to prevent Pakistan slipping to a 2-0 defeat against the Black Caps.  

The return of Babar on home soil is a boost, not least because he will bolster a batting line-up that struggled badly in New Zealand.  

Shan Masood has lost his place at the top of the order following a lack of runs, while the Pakistan selectors also left out Haris Sohail and Mohammad Abbas from an initial 20-man squad.  

Opener Imran Butt is set to make his Test debut at the National Stadium, a venue where the home team have lost only one of their last seven Tests, albeit that defeat did come against the Proteas, back in October 2007.  

Both Shadab Khan and Naseem Shah are missing due to injuries, while Abbas' absence from the bowling attack could lead to a recall for Hasan Ali.

As for South Africa, they have arrived fresh from a 2-0 series sweep over Sri Lanka. Quinton de Kock continues in charge, the wicketkeeper-batsman set to play in his 50th Test in the opener. 

The Proteas captain has Kagiso Rabada available again, bolstering a pace attack that performed so impressively against Sri Lanka without him. With Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Lutho Sipamla also vying to play, there are a wealth of options when it comes to seam bowling.

However, the balancing act for South Africa will come over whether to select two spinners. Tabraiz Shamsi is the likely option to come into the XI, joining forces with fellow slow bowler Keshav Maharaj. 
 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME 

His absence keenly felt in New Zealand, Babar will be determined to make up for lost time when he goes up against South Africa in his homeland. 

The stylish right-hander has scored 50 or more in each of his four Test innings in Pakistan, including three centuries. His batting average in the country (202.5) is the best by any player in Test history there. 
 

MILESTONES IN SIGHT FOR DE KOCK 

There is the potential for not one but two major milestones for De Kock, who had a relatively quiet series with the bat against Sri Lanka. 

The destructive left-hander is just 38 away from becoming the 16th player to score 3,000 Test runs for South Africa. He equalled his highest Test score (129) in his most recent innings against Pakistan two years ago, too. 


KEY MATCH FACTS

- South Africa have lost only one of their 10 multi-game Test series against Pakistan (W6, D3), that loss coming when they toured Pakistan in 2003 (1-0).

- Lutho Sipamla finished with a bowling strike-rate of 23.9 in the Proteas' most recent Test series (10 wickets against Sri Lanka), the best by any player. 

- Pakistan have lost only one of their last eight Test series on home soil (W5, D2), though that solitary setback came against South Africa (1-0 in October 2007).

- Mohammad Rizwan has scored 50+ in five of his previous six Test innings, having done so only once in his first 11 at the crease in the format.

- Faf du Plessis has faced Shaheen Afridi in three Test innings heading into this series, being dismissed by the Pakistan paceman on each occasion while scoring just 27 runs in response.

Captain Jason Mohammed believes the West Indies substitutes sent to tour Bangladesh were simply not up to the task as the visitors suffered a 120-run loss at Chattogram today. It was their third straight loss in the three-match series.

Joe Root felt England's calmness under pressure was the key to securing victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka – but insisted there is still room for improvement ahead of the tour to India. 

England trailed after both teams had batted once in Galle, yet four wickets apiece for spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach helped turn the game their way. 

Sri Lanka rather self-destructed with the bat – something Root revealed the tourists had hoped to bring about by "creating a bit of chaos" - and left their opponents needing just 164 to seal a 2-0 series sweep. 

Dom Sibley anchored the chase, scoring 56 not out having managed only six runs combined in his three previous knocks, while Jos Buttler made an unbeaten 46 to help complete a six-wicket triumph. 

"It was a fine performance in this game. To come out on top having lost the toss on a wicket that, for the majority of the game, we had the worst part of is a testament to the character of the boys," Root said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

"In that second innings, at the back end, it was about dealing with pressure. I thought a number of guys in a very difficult run chase showed a lot of maturity, calmness and poise to see us home. It's a brilliant way to finish the series.

"When we came to bowl, it was about creating a bit of chaos, making it difficult for Sir Lanka to score boundaries.

"We knew if we could build pressure and try and really squeeze the game, we'd create opportunities on that surface. Thankfully, that worked out for us."

He added: "The one thing I'm proud of within our group is how calm we were; how clear we were over how we were going to score runs on that wicket in that chase."

England have little time to bask in their latest success, however, as they head on to India for a four-Test series. For Root, the aim is to keep on progressing during what is a hectic 2021 schedule.

Still, they have won five successive Test matches overseas for the first time since 1914, while they will be boosted by the return of Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes in India. Rory Burns is also available again; the opening batsman missed the Sri Lanka trip to be present for the birth of his first child.

"As a team, we are moving forward all the time. We are on a little bit of an upward curve and we've just got to keep on looking to get better," Root - who scored 426 runs in the series at an average of 106.5 - said.

"With four more Tests to come on this tour for us, it's really important we don't stand still. We are not happy with what we have achieved so far, we will keep looking to improve all the time. 

"There will be different challenges, different surfaces to deal with and situations to manage in the coming games, but can we have that same attitude, that same desire to want to improve all the time."

The England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed on Monday that New Zealand will visit in June, playing Root's side in Tests at Lord's and Edgbaston.

England will also play three Twenty20 fixtures and a trio of one-day games against Sri Lanka. 

England wrapped up an impressive six-wicket victory to complete a series sweep after a dramatic Sri Lanka collapse on day four of the second Test. 

Dom Sibley finished up unbeaten on 56 as he and Jos Buttler (46 not out) saw the tourists to a target of 164, the pair putting on a pivotal stand worth 75 after coming together with their team wobbling in the run chase. 

Lasith Embuldeniya claimed three of the wickets to fall as he finished with match figures of 10-210, but Sri Lanka were left to regret a shoddy batting display that saw them all out for 126 in 35.5 overs. 

England added just five runs in the morning before their first innings was wrapped up at 344, meaning Sri Lanka came out to bat again with a useful lead of 37 on a dry, turning pitch. 

However, Dom Bess and Jack Leach claimed four wickets apiece, aided by some questionable shot choices, as Sri Lanka lost the plot. They were reeling on 78-8 when debutant Ramesh Mendis was caught behind for 16 - the top score for the hosts at the time.

Embuldeniya made 40 - easily a career-best knock in all formats - thanks to six fours and a solitary six, while the more reserved Suranga Lakmal (11 not out) was happy to hang around. Eventually, Joe Root came on to claim the final two wickets in just 11 deliveries, leaving England chasing 164. 

The busy Embuldeniya was soon centre stage again as Sri Lanka chipped away to retain hope, Zak Crawley (13), Jonny Bairstow - who made 28 in a hurry - and Dan Lawrence (2) all falling to the left-arm spinner. 

Mendis claimed the prized wicket of Root, bowled off an inside edge trying to play a paddle sweep for 11, but Sibley and Buttler combined to calm any nerves, seeing their team over the finishing line with ease in the end. 

The victory means England have won five successive overseas Test matches for the first time since 1914 - they will hope to continue that run when they head to India next.

Agha Salman, Abdullah Shafique and Kamran Ghulam have been omitted from Pakistan's squad for the first Test against South Africa.

The trio were named in an initial squad of 20 for the opening Test in Karachi, which starts on Tuesday, but did not make the final cut.

With Shafique overlooked, Imran Butt looks set to be handed his debut his debut at the top of the order.

Pakistan were whitewashed 2-0 in their last Test series against New Zealand and are without a win in five matches in the longest format, but head coach Misbah-ul-Haq is optimistic they can turn the tide.

He said: "Understanding how poor we were in the field on our previous New Zealand tour, we have given fielding much importance while preparing [to play the Proteas].

"We are having extraordinary training sessions, with dedicated sessions to bring improvements. We are overall ready and looking forward to taking on South Africa."

Pakistan squad: Abid Ali , Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (captain), Fawad Alam, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tabish Khan.

Joe Root treated his England team-mates to an education in how to play spin bowling following his domination of the Sri Lanka attack, says Jos Buttler.

Captain Root backed up his 228 in the first Test victory with a monumental 186 in Galle on Sunday, falling cruelly to a run out from the final ball of the day.

Oshada Fernando's quick thinking at short leg meant England closed day three on 339-9 - a first-innings deficit of 42.

Despite that giving Sri Lanka a slight edge in their bid to secure a series-levelling win, attention afterwards understandably focused upon Root, who passed Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower to go fourth on England's all-time list of Test run scorers over the course of a fabulous knock.

"It was quite an amazing innings," Buttler said. "To back up his double hundred in the first Test, to show the mental and physical application to go again.

"It's been a masterclass in batting against spin. It's been a great education for all of us watching from the sidelines.

"We've thoroughly enjoyed watching him and we're gutted for him getting out in that fashion at the end of the day."

Buttler, who was the only other England batsman to pass 50, shared a 97-run stand with Root for the fifth wicket and also marvelled at his skipper's powers of endurance.

The 30-year-old Root motored on during the evening session despite cramps and back pain demonstrating the toll taken.

"For all eight days of the series so far he's been out on the field," Buttler said. "This game feels a lot hotter and lot more draining than the first game, [which had] rain breaks.

"We have to praise not only the tactical and technical aspect of his game, but the physicality and concentration to apply himself for so long.

"Once again, to back up the first Test is quite amazing really."

Lasith Embuldeniya carried the fight for Sri Lanka with superb figures of 7-132, but even the in-form slow left-armer could not escape punishment from Root, who swept with authority and even unfurled an audacious switch hit to fine effect.

"There were some quite amazing shots, really," added Buttler, who is consistently England's most innovative strokemaker across all formats. "It show the confidence and the skill level is amazing.

"He even played a little late cut left-handed. It's been great to watch. His skill level is second to none."

England captain Joe Root was denied a second consecutive double century when he was run out for 186 from the final ball of day three in a gripping second Test against Sri Lanka.

The great Wally Hammond remains the only Englishman in history to have passed 200 in consecutive matches, although Root looked certain to join him as he took the fight to the hosts in majestic fashion

Root is now fourth in England's list of all-time Test runs scorers, having surpassed Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower over the course of a truly magnificent knock, which accounts for the bulk of England's 339-9 – a first-innings deficit of 42.

Before Oshada Fernando collected sharply at short leg to catch the visiting skipper out of his ground, this was another England innings that pitted two supreme performers at the top of their game against one another, with Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya taking 7-132 in a near lone response to Root's brilliance.

Embuldeniya's wide angle on the crease and ability to find biting turn accounted for openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley on day two, and he saw off Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence in similar fashion on Sunday.

Bairstow could only add four to his overnight 24 after a review showed a faint inside edge onto pad that was pouched by Oshada, while Lawrence nicked a beauty to Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

Root's immaculate sweep shot meant he was able to largely avoid such problems, even punishing the excellent Embuldeniya with his audacious switch hit.

Substantial support for the captain finally arrived in the form of Jos Buttler, whose crunching off-side drive and reverse sweep were in good order during a fifth-wicket partnership of 97.

Somewhat unfortunately, the latter shot would prove Buttler's downfall after lunch when, on 55, he struck a delivery from debutant Ramesh Mendis (1-48) into his boot and it looped up for the ever-alert Osada to catch.

The Thirimanne-Embuldeniya combination accounted for Sam Curran, Dom Bess and Mark Wood, although Bess played tidily for an important 32 in a stand of 81 as Root motored on despite beginning to struggle with cramps and back pain.

It was a monumental effort over the course of 309 deliveries that did not deserve its cruel sting in the tail.

West Indies head coach, Phil Simmons, insists the upcoming Test series against Bangladesh will be a chance for inexperienced players to prove their mettle by doing well for the short-handed team.

If the play in the One Day Internationals (ODIs) is anything to go by, the regional team could have plenty of cause for concern as they have been unable to compete with Bangladesh to date.  In two matches so far, in which they batted first, the team was bowled out for 122 and 149 before Bangladesh easily chased down the target.

Facing off against the Asians next week, in what could be considered their weakest format, and with just as many inexperienced players in the line-up, it is likely to be a stern challenge.  Simmons sees an opportunity.

“It’s chance that guys get to show what they can do at this level.  It’s a chance for them to put their names in the hat for 2023 and put their names in the hat for Sri Lanka and later this year.  So, it’s good to see what people are made of,” Simmons said.

The coach predicts the four-day contests will be good for the team, as it should prove to be a test of strength.

“Playing in these conditions, playing in the environment that we are in and everything, you have to be strong.  You have to get stronger than just playing a cricket match.  So, you will see who are the strong ones and who leads from the front.  Let’s see who takes up the challenge and who comes out best in the two-Test matches.”

Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow came to England's rescue after Sri Lanka again tortured the tourists' openers with spin, leaving the second Test well poised in Galle.

Sri Lanka advanced from their overnight 229-4 to 381 all out, with James Anderson snagging 6-40, before Lasith Embuldeniya reduced England to 5-2 in their first innings.

They recovered to reach the close on 98-2, with captain Root (67 not out) and ally Bairstow (24no) showing cool-headed resilience, although the latter survived a precarious lbw call just before the close.

Root, in his 99th Test, went beyond fellow Yorkshire great Geoff Boycott's career haul of 8,114 runs at this level during his unflappable innings, going sixth on England's all-time list.

By contrast to the third-wicket pair, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley have found left-arm spinner Embuldeniya almost unplayable in this series.

The 24-year-old removed both openers for single-figure scores in each innings of the first Test and on this occasion he prised out Sibley for a duck and Crawley for just five.

Sibley was back on his stumps, floundering, when Embuldeniya breached his defences to get the lbw verdict, and Crawley was prised out by a delicious delivery that caught the edge and angled into the hands of Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

It means Sibley has made just six runs in three innings, Crawley faring little better with only 22 so far on this tour.

Fortunately for England, the Yorkshire pair of Root and Bairstow brought their experience to bear and found a way to exert control, pushing and prodding but mostly sweeping and reverse-sweeping their way to stability.

Anderson had earlier caught the eye once again, the 38-year-old producing figures that statistically rank as the fourth best of his Test career.

Already armed with three wickets from day one, Anderson made a swift impact in the morning by having century maker Angelo Mathews caught by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for 110 in the second over of the day.

Niroshan Dickwella weighed in with 92 before falling to Anderson as he and Dilruwan Perera (67) put Sri Lanka in a sturdy position.

 

England caught in a spin

While Anderson was going through his majestic repertoire, Jack Leach and Dom Bess toiled for a combined 0-195 from 64 overs.

They were made to look limited by Sri Lanka's batsmen, who handled the England spin pair far more adeptly than during the first Test, when together they snagged 14 wickets.

This time there was no penetration, but Sri Lanka's premier spinner Embuldeniya immediately found zip, accuracy and effective turn, humiliating England's top two batsmen once again.

Crawley made 267 against Pakistan at Southampton last August, and he has one innings left in Galle to show his true quality.

Kevin Pietersen was moved to post to Twitter a letter he once received from Rahul Dravid on how to play spin, urging England management to pass the guidance to the openers.

Remarkable Root

England's skipper made a double century in the first Test against Sri Lanka, and again he soon got on top of the home side's attack.

He struck seven boundaries in reaching his fifty, never looking in trouble.

Sri Lanka appealed for an lbw when Root offered no shot to a turning ball from Dilruwan Perera, but the ball started out so wide that it was always missing by a long way.

England will want more of the same from Root on Sunday, and should that be forthcoming this could turn into quite some match.

Target: Bairstow

Sri Lanka will want to break up the established partnership as early as possible on day three, with Bairstow looking the more vulnerable batsman.

If Embuldeniya finds his choice line early in the day, he will fancy removing the man who England have surprisingly chosen to rest for their upcoming series with India.

West Indies legendary wicketkeeper, Jeffrey Dujon, is convinced that out-of-favour Shai Hope remains the team’s best batsman, despite recently running into a rough patch of form.

The 27-years-old Hope was dropped from the team last year ahead of the West Indies tour of New Zealand.  The decision followed several months of off-colour form, which saw the player return scores of 16, 9, 25, 7, 17, and 31 during the team’s three-Test tour of England in July. Overall, in Test cricket, Hope averaged 19.48 since December 2017 and just 14.45 since February 2019.

The decision to drop the player, however, still stirred vigorous debate around the region, with many arguing that he should have been allowed to play his way back into form.  For his part, Dujon has backed the player to figure things out sooner, rather than later.

“There’s no question in my mind that he is the best batsman that we have,” Dujon told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Technically he is very good, from the very first time I saw him, I thought he was very good and talking to him and getting to know him, I know he is smart enough to work it out when things aren’t going right,” he added.

“He might have gotten his technique a little bit mixed up because of the competitions he was playing in, but I don’t see that lasting very long because he has quality.  You don’t go to England and be immortal and not be able to bat.”

Hope grabbed headlines around the world in 2017, becoming the first batsman to score twin hundreds in a match at Headingly in first-class cricket.

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