Sri Lanka v England: Third Test
Venue: Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo Dates: 23-27 November Time: 04:30 GMT

England’s lack of a settled number three Test batsman is “not the perfect scenario”, Joe Root has admitted.

The recalled Jonny Bairstow will be the fourth player to bat at three against Sri Lanka in three matches when the final Test begins in Colombo on Friday.

Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and Keaton Jennings have all batted there so far in a series which England hold an unassailable 2-0 lead.

“We want to have that position nailed down,” captain Root told BBC Sport.

“The exciting thing is we’ve found ways of winning matches without that.

“Over the next few months, if that can be nailed on then we’ll see another step in the right direction for this team.”

England are looking to win every Test in a series in Sri Lanka for the first time and become only the third side after this year and in 2004 to win 3-0 there.

Bairstow, 29, is set to become the 11th player to bat at three in under five years since Jonathan Trott’s final Test in that spot against at Brisbane in 2013.

Moeen started the current series at three after taking that spot during the fourth Test against in the summer, but moved back down the order after making only a duck and then three in the first Test at Galle.

Fellow all-rounder Stokes moved up to three for the first innings of the second Test in Pallekele, and scored 19, before Jennings hit 26 at three in the second innings after nightwatchman Jack Leach opened.

“Having a settled number three would be ideal but we should be open to being flexible,” said Root.

“We have adapted well – in that second innings in Pallekele we could’ve easily left the order as it was but we wanted to split the left-handers up.

“We’ve been quite smart and shrewd in areas like that and you see at lot of it in one-day so why not see more of it in Test ?”

‘I want the gloves back’ – Bairstow

England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes shapes to catch the ball with his right hand near the stumps during the second Test against Sri Lanka

Wicketkeeper-batsman Bairstow missed the first Test after suffering ankle ligament damage playing football in training and was not selected for the second Test after replacement Ben Foakes scored a century on debut and impressed behind the stumps.

All-rounder Sam Curran is out with a side strain and England have opted to strengthen their batting with Bairstow.

“Ben has made it difficult for Jonny to get back into the team because he’s done phenomenally well since coming in and made that position his own,” said Root.

“But this a great chance for Jonny to get back into scoring Test match runs and hopefully he can grab it with both hands.”

Bairstow told BBC Sport he wants the gloves back but was ready to “go out and try to stamp my authority” on the number three slot.

“Naturally I’m frustrated I won’t be keeping wicket because I’ve put a lot of hard work in over the last three years and I don’t think I’ve done a huge amount wrong,” he said.

“I’ll still be working on my keeping just as hard as I have been and if the position comes up then hopefully I’ll get it but you don’t want to h illness, injury or loss of form on anyone.

“Batting at three is a great opportunity and going into the Ashes you want people to be in positions for a period of time, learning how to craft an innings in those specific positions.”

Root added England would likely not have rested fast bowler James Anderson if the series was still at stake but are “not losing out” by recalling Stuart Broad in his place.

“It’s important that over the next couple of years we’re really clever in managing those two, getting the most out of them for as long as possible,” he said.

“There is not a huge amount of Test before the Ashes so getting Stuart some game time seems a really sensible thing to do.”

England team for third Test: Rory Burns, Keaton Jennings, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes (wk), Adil Rashid, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad.


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