Head coach Chris Silverwood said “fighter” Dan Lawrence is ready for an England Test debut after also confirming that Moeen Ali will miss the series opener against Sri Lanka after his isolation period.
Uncapped Essex batsman Lawrence, 23, looks set for a place in the middle order in the first Test at Galle from Thursday, with fellow batsmen Rory Burns (paternity leave), Ben Stokes (rested) and Ollie Pope (returning from a shoulder injury) not in England’s squad for the two-match series.
However, all-rounder Moeen Ali will sit out the game having tested positive for coronavirus upon arrival in Sri Lanka, with his quarantine period to end just one day before the opening Test.
Sri Lanka vs England
January 14, 2021, 4:00am
On Lawrence, whom he previously coached at domestic level with Essex, Silverwood said: “I think he is ready for a debut. I have known Dan a long time now, having coached Essex’s second team when he came through there, and he is a great character, a fighter.
“Should he get the nod we have every confidence he will be successful. Dan has always done things his way and that will stand him in good stead now. He doesn’t get flustered or worry about who the opposition are. He gets on and does his job his way. He loves scoring runs.
“Those are the characteristics I saw from a young man coming into the Essex second team and he shows the same characteristics now, which is great to see. His knowledge of the game, playing his skills and how he adapts to situations has got stronger and stronger.
“He is strong on his leg-side but there is no reason why that can’t be a strength and he can adapt that to Test cricket. You don’t know until they try.”
Silverwood says Moeen is “feeling okay in himself” and that the side are looking forward to welcoming the off-spinner back into their group.
The head coach also said Chris Woakes’ availability will be decided in the coming days, with the all-rounder recently ending a week of isolation in his hotel room after being deemed a close contact with Moeen due to the pair sharing a car to Heathrow ahead of the flight out to Sri Lanka.
Silverwood said: “[Moeen] won’t be available for the first Test because he has been in isolation but he is in good spirits – as good as he can be. He is feeling okay in himself and from a physical point of view. We are all looking forward to having Mo back in the camp with us and seeing him.
“He is getting a lot of support – I know the lads are constantly messaging him and checking in on him, as are our medical team.
“The timeline is going to be tight for Chris but I will know more at the end of the training session [on Monday].”
Welcome back @chriswoakes! 👋
Woakesy rejoins the squad after his self-isolation
🇱🇰 #SLvENG 🏴 pic.twitter.com/vuw9XywqCX
Former South Africa all-rounder Jacques Kallis has been able to make his presence felt in Sri Lanka, says Silverwood, after being appointed as England’s batting consultant for the series.
Kallis scored over 13,000 runs in Test cricket – only Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting have managed more – at an average of 55.37, while his record in 25 Tests in Asia was eight hundreds, eight half-centuries and 2,058 runs at an average of 55.62.
On Kallis, Silverwood said: “It is great to have him here. There is no player in the world that wouldn’t look up to Jacques and enjoy talking to him.
“He has already got in amongst it. We have had meetings where he was sharing his experiences with the batters, how he approached things when he was in Sri Lanka. It fits very much with the methods Joe Root and I are trying to put in place. His philosophies fit very well with that.
“I played against Jacques and he was a great player. The wealth of experience he will bring – we talk about his batting but he bowled as well and was an excellent fielder – can offer us a lot. To have him around is a real bonus for us.”
Silverwood also lauded England’s variety of bowling options ahead of the series in Sri Lanka, the place where they swept the hosts 3-0 in 2018 for Root’s first series win as captain away from home.
Mark Wood and Olly Stone are the express bowlers in England’s squad with Jofra Archer rested, while Sam Curran offers the left-arm angle and Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Woakes supply a wealth of experience.
We have six Tests in a relatively short period of time so we have to be realistic and the chances are players won’t play every Test match. We rested and rotated during the summer and we will have to continue doing it. The players understand that from a physical and mental point of view.
Chris Silverwood on England resting and rotating players
Silverwood added: “Having an option of that extra pace in your armoury if it is flat or not swinging is always nice to have as a captain. It shows the importance of these fast bowlers and trying to keep as many of them fit.
“[But] you want different options. Curran is a left-armer who can swing it. Jimmy swings it. Broady is accurate and relentless. With our bowling attack, we have a wealth of experience with Jimmy and Broady but also people that do different things. I feel we have a good bunch to select from.
“It is difficult to win here and Sri Lanka will want to get revenge for last time. We have to respect that they are a good side in their conditions. Do I believe we can win? Of course I do. I always believe our team can beat anyone but it’s all about the processes.
“The important thing for me is continuing the progression from when I took over. Our Test team is getting better and better and better and the plans and methods are getting stronger as well. If we continue that, we should be successful.”
England have also brought seven reserves on tour in case of injury or illness, including spinners Mason Crane, Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi, each of whom could now come into the equation due to Moeen’s absence.
“We travel with such a large squad so we have any eventuality covered. We can play plenty of spin if required to,” added Silverwood.
“Normally you would fly someone out in case of injury but now the guys we would have flown in anyway are already here, up and running and training with the squad.
“It makes things easier and gives me more options and other people opportunities. That’s one of the good things to come out of this. In the long term, we are getting experience into people running into the Ashes.”
Watch England take on Sri Lanka in the first Test live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4am on Thursday.
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