Ahead of the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, England skipper Joe Root said his side is fully prepared to take on any challenge despite playing a red-ball game after a gap of more than five months.
England last played a three-match Test series against Pakistan at home conditions in August 2020. England clinched the series by 1-0 after winning the first Test at Old Trafford by three wickets. "I think we are prepared as best as we can and that's all we can do. We made the most of everything we got. We had some really good conversations about the conditions and what to expect. Guys with some really good experiences over here in the previous tour and some very styling players. Now, we gonna pull out together. It blends nicely and hopefully we can transfer that in the game tomorrow," Root said in the virtual pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
Root said that spinning tracks will throw challenges to the visiting team but they are adapting to the conditions quickly.
"That is one of the biggest challenges of coming and playing in Sri Lanka or in the sub-continent. The rhythm of the game is so different to play in English conditions. You face a lot more spin and a lot more double-spin from both ends and that's part and parcel of playing in this part of the world," England skipper said as per the audio shared by ECB.
"It is really important that guys are ready for that and not just the rhythm of the game but the amount of spin and how quickly that can happen. That all things we have discussed at lengths as a batsmen group and as a team. Last time, it felt like whoever adapted quickest grabbed those big moments in the game. Hopefully, we can repeat that this time around," he added.
Talking about the addition of former South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis as the batting consultant for the Sri Lanka tour, Root said it is great to have him on the side with great knowledge of the conditions.
"He has been brilliant. He had a great knowledge of these conditions and when someone like him speaks everybody listens. When we had a group meeting as a batting group, in particular, the guys have listened closely whether it be finding or managing the way in these conditions or whether it be few technical learning things. I'm sure throughout his time the lads will be trying to take as much as possible from him because he was a fantastic player and it is great to have him around the group," he said.
Root said batsman Dan Lawrence, who is yet to make his debut, is an exciting player and he has the ability to put any side under pressure.
"He is a very exciting player. We have seen what he can do in county cricket. His ability can really put sides under pressure. He has a range of shots. He is a very confident guy and it is exciting to see him engage in his work when he gets a chance," Root said.
Wet weather and the potential for a more seamer friendly wicket means England are in no rush to name their bowling attack for the first test against Sri Lanka starting in Galle on Thursday, Root said.
Less than 24 hours before the start of the two-match series, Root said they were still undecided on who will play, and suggested seam could play a bigger role on what is traditionally a pitch that takes plenty of turn.
"There has been quite a lot of rain over the last few days so we want to make sure we are clear on the starting 11, and make sure we have the best tools for these conditions and the surface," Root told reporters on Wednesday.
"Throughout the winter (Test tours to Sri Lanka and India) we will exploit pace as a tactic in these conditions, whether it is reverse swing or a more hostile spell of bowling. It can be very effective.
"With the weather around, seam might play a bigger part than has been spoken about previously."
Sri Lanka battled against genuine pace on their recent tour of South Africa with two heavy test defeats, though those were on wickets that had plenty of seam movement and bounce.
England are still in contention for a place in the final of the ICC’s Test Championship at Lords in June, but will likely have to win this series as well as their four-game tour of India to get there.
"We have to look at what is right in front of us, look at this first game and get a result," Root said.
"It is a cliché, but one step at a time. It is exciting that there is still an opportunity for us to get to the Test Championship final though."
Both the Tests between Sri Lanka and England will be played in Galle, behind closed doors.
Mathews returns to Sri Lanka squad for England Tests
Experienced Sri Lanka batsman Angelo Mathews, who missed their recent trip to South Africa due to a hamstring injury, has returned to the Test side for the two-match home series against England starting on Thursday.
The 33-year-old former captain was named in Sri Lanka's 22-man squad for the series, which was postponed in March after England returned home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will now be played in Galle without fans.
Sri Lanka suffered a spate of injuries during their two heavy defeats in South Africa and Dimuth Karunaratne's side will also welcome back experienced batsman Dinesh Chandimal and pacemen Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Kumara against England.
Batsman Dhananjaya de Silva and fast bowler Kasun Rajitha were both ruled out against England after suffering injuries in South Africa.
Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Kusal Janith Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Oshada Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Embuldeniya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Dasun Shanaka, Asitha Fernando, Roshen Silva, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Ramesh Mendis