Dan Lawrence looks set to make his Test debut for England against Sri Lanka on Thursday, with the head coach, Chris Silverwood, confident the 23-year-old “fighter” is ready after closely tracking his rise through the ranks at Essex.
Lawrence, a wristy right-hander with 10 first-class centuries, is viewed as long-term investment for Test cricket and in the absence of Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope has been pencilled in to bat at No 5 ever since the squad for this tour was named.
A five-bowler strategy that sees wicketkeeper Jos Buttler slated to bat at No 6 appears the likeliest course and Silverwood, who spent eight years at Essex before his switch to England in early 2018, believes Lawrence is equipped to deal with this.
“I think he’s ready,” said Silverwood. “I’ve known Dan for a long time now, having coached Essex’s second team when he was coming through there as well. He’s a great character and a fighter with lots of skill there as well. Should he get the nod we’ve got every confidence he can be successful.”
Lawrence, a product of Chingford Cricket Club, has been viewed as a potential England cricketer since 2015 when, aged just 17 years and 290 days, he became the County Championship’s third youngest centurion, with 161 against Surrey at the Oval.
Two centuries during a hugely successful Lions trip to Australian last year elevated his profile in the eyes of the selectors further and though much has been made of his lack of trigger movement and a penchant for the leg-side – teammate Alastair Cook called him “Legside Larry” in his newspaper column – Silverwood fancies it will work.
Silverwood said: “I think the one thing with Dan he has always played his way. He does not get flustered. He doesn’t care who the opposition are. I saw those characteristics in him as a young man and he has showed the same characteristics now. It is great to see the consistency.
“But equally his knowledge of the game – how he goes about his skills and adapts to situations, has got stronger and stronger. He is strong on his leg side but there is no reason why he can’t adapt that to Test cricket.”
Bowling-wise, England’s plan appears to be an all-rounder at No7, one of Ollie Stone or Mark Wood for outright pace through the air, two spinners in Dom Bess and Jack Leach, with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad rotating for one final spot.
This represents a departure from the three-spinner strategy that returned a 3-0 victory back in 2018 but may yet change. Moeen Ali is out of the first Test, his isolation after contracting Covid-19 ending on Wednesday, and Silverwood may yet add one of Mason Crane, Amar Virdi or Matt Parkinson to the main squad – all three are reserves on tour – once he and Joe Root have inspected the pitch in Galle.
Silverwood added: “We can play plenty of spin if required to. They are all here, so they’re available. We travel with such a large group so should any eventuality come up we have it covered. It is difficult to win here. I read [Sri Lanka head coach] Mickey Arthur’s comments [to the Guardian] about our win in 2018 being in the back of their minds and wanting to get revenge for that. Do I believe we can win? Of course, I always believe our team can beat anyone. To me it’s about the processes, the continual progression of the team.”
Dan Lawrence is ready for an England Test debut, believes Silverwood The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ The Guardian.