England have made two changes for the third and final Test in Sri Lanka, with Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow returning in place of the rested James Anderson and the injured Sam Curran.
Record wicket-taker Anderson will make way for his longstanding new-ball partner after admitting to feeling “like a spare part” on spinning pitches in Galle and Kandy, while Bairstow will become the latest man to try his hand at number three.
After a fitness test at Sinhalese Sports Club, England decided Curran’s side strain would not allow him to take the field on Friday and opted to rebalance the side in his absence.
Bairstow’s inclusion ahead of Chris Woakes or Olly Stone will further bolster a formidable batting order, while Ben Stokes will take on second seamer duties. Last week at Pallekele Stadium Stokes had been promoted to first wicket down but that job will now transfer to Bairstow, whose ankle injury allowed Ben Foakes to emerge as the team’s new first-choice wicketkeeper.
Having seen an unchanged XI take a decisive 2-0 lead, the tourists will be hoping their revised formula delivers a clean sweep in Colombo.
For Anderson, it represents an early end to a challenging trip. The 36-year-old has sent down a total of 41 overs in four innings on unwelcoming tracks with his solitary dismissal coming when he found Dimuth Karunaratne’s edge with his second ball of the series.
“Joe Root told me this morning. I had a feeling it might be the case. You don’t want to miss a Test – I never like it – but I understand the reasoning behind it.
“We’re going to the West Indies (in the new year) and with a view to that, I think the feeling is they want Broady to get some Test cricket under his belt. So it’s going to be a week off.
“I feel like a bit of a spare part but I think that’s just the nature of playing cricket here.
“As frustrating as it’s been for me personally, it’s been brilliant to be a part of such a great series for the team.”
Broad, who has impressed with an exemplary attitude after being left out for the just the second time in a decade, will be hoping for a more responsive surface for his comeback match but Anderson’s early assessment after seeing the track at SSC offered minimal encouragement.
“It’s turning square, there’s no pace in the pitch and you don’t feel the nicks really carry,” Anderson said.
“I can’t imagine there’ll be too much reverse-swing this week either. So you come out here thinking that’s one weapon you can use but it hasn’t worked out that way.
“But he doesn’t need any advice, he’ll just go out there and enjoy himself.”
Bairstow’s elevation in the order, meanwhile, makes him the fifth player to bat at three in the last five Tests, following Root, Stokes, Moeen Ali and Keaton Jennings. The latter was an anomaly due to Jack Leach’s appearance as a nightwatchman in Kandy, but there is no escaping the uncertainty surrounding such a key position.