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Stokes to bat at three for England in second Test

Ben Stokes

Sri Lanka v England: Second Test
Venue: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Kandy Dates: 14-18 November Time: 04:30 BST
Coverage: Watch and listen to The Cricket Social and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Ben Stokes will bat at three and Ben Foakes will keep wicket for England in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Pallekele starting on Wednesday.

All-rounder Stokes, who usually bats in the middle order, replaces Moeen Ali, who is expected to bat at six.

Foakes made 107 and claimed three dismissals on debut as England won the first Test in Galle by 211 runs.

Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who has recovered from an ankle injury, has been overlooked.

“Ben’s technique is sound and he will be able to adapt to this role,” said captain Joe Root.

“He is one of the fittest guys in the side, so the intensity of batting in the top order and bowling as one of our three seamers will not faze him.”

Foakes was a late addition to the touring squad after regular keeper Bairstow twisted an ankle playing football in training in October.

“Jonny understands the situation and is aware that we have to pick the side that are best suited to conditions we can expect in Kandy,” said Root.

“He is a integral part of our plans and his experience around the group is important.”

England’s win in Galle last week was their first away from home in two years. They have not won an away series since 2015-16.

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England team for second Test: Rory Burns, Keaton Jennings, Ben Stokes, Joe Root (c), Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes (wk), Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Jack Leach, James Anderson.

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‘Why not try something different?’

England have struggled to fill the number three position since Jonathan Trott’s retirement from international cricket in 2015.

James Vince, Moeen Ali, Tom Westley, Gary Ballance and Root have occupied that spot in the past 18 months, with Moeen scoring a combined three runs in two innings batting at three in Galle.

Speaking before the team was named, Root told BBC Sport: “We’ve done things a certain way for a long period of time in this part of the world and it’s not worked.

“Why not try something different and be open to new ideas? To experiment a little and be brave with that?

“It is nice to have a bit of continuity and routine with the way things go but sometimes cricket isn’t always like that.”

Stokes made seven and 62 at number five in Galle. He has twice batted at four for England – most recently in November 2016 in India – but never at three.

Joe Root

Analysis

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

An unchanged team was always likely following England’s victory in Galle. But Moeen’s performance at number three, coupled with the amount he is expected to bowl here, has prompted this change.

At first glance, the attacking Stokes might not appear a natural three. But his defence is solid as a rock and he demonstrated in Galle that he defends spinners well.

Whether this turns out to be the long-term solution that England seek remains to be seen but here, with so many bowling options needed, it makes sense.

Bairstow will be disappointed, not least because the footballing injury has now cost him his place, but he will return – although possibly not behind the stumps, where Foakes is considered the first choice.

Dananjaya in ‘good mentality’

Sri Lanka off-spinner Akila Dananjaya will play in the second Test, despite being reported for a suspect bowling action.

The 25-year-old must be tested within 14 days of being reported and is allowed to continue bowling until the results are known.

Stand-in captain Suranga Lakmal said: “He’s in a good mentality, so he will still play the next match and correct his mistake.

“Getting reported is just another thing. Forget that and bowl well in this game.”

The hosts are without captain Dinesh Chandimal, who was ruled out of the remaining two Tests with a groin injury.

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