England’s two-match Test series against Sri Lanka begins in Galle in a week’s time, a fitting venue for what should be an enthralling five days of cricket.
There are few grounds in the world that are more picturesque or unique than the Galle International Stadium, which is situated in the shadow of the Dutch Fort (a UNESCO world heritage site) and is bordered by the Indian Ocean on two sides.
Sure, there are plenty of majestic venues to watch cricket worldwide – in that way the sport is blessed – but it’s hard to think of many others that allow you to lounge on the battlements of a historic fort and watch the Three Lions.
The ground itself has a long and storied history. It was built as a racecourse in 1876 and was not declared an official cricket ground until 1927.
In 1984 it hosted its maiden first class match but it would have to wait a further 14 years for its first Test, a meeting between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in June 1998.
Situated on the country’s South West coastline, the stadium survived the devastation of the Tsunami in 2004 and having been rebuilt, remains one of the finest places to watch cricket in the world.
Spin is king
As with many grounds in Sri Lanka, the dry and crumbling pitches mean that the conditions favour spin bowling.
It has been a happy hunting ground for two of Sri Lanka’s greatest bowlers, Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath, who have both taken more than 100 wickets there.
In addition to some significant turn, the ball is known to keep low and skid on for the seamers.
For batsmen, it is likely to be something of a war of attrition. That won’t be easy in the heat and humidity but England proved in South Africa that they’re capable of batting long.
A tough place to visit
In the past, Galle has proven a tough place to visit for the Three Lions.
In fact, England had to wait until their most recent tour of Sri Lanka in 2018 to taste victory at the ground.
Prior to that, the tourists had lost twice and drawn twice in Galle, including being dismissed for just 80 in the first innings of a game in 2007.
It is viewed as something of a lucky ground for Sri Lanka, who have won 19 of the 33 Tests they have played at the venue.
The last visit
That being said, England players and fans will likely have fond memories from their most recent visit.
The tourists secured a comprehensive victory in Galle in the opening Test of their three-match series in 2018, beating their hosts by 211 runs.
With the bat, there were centuries from debutant Ben Foakes and Keaton Jennings. The stars with the ball were Moeen Ali and Jack Leach, who will no doubt be excited to get back there!
The series opener
Joe Root’s men have been slaving away in the heat to ensure they’re in the best possible shape in time for when the first ball is bowled on the 19th of March.
Seven of their squad played in the victory in Galle two years ago and they will no doubt be looking to use the experience they gained from that to ensure they can claim another victory there.
England will carry a huge amount of momentum into the series opener after their comprehensive 3-1 victory in South Africa at the start of the year.
There might not be any autographs or selfies on offer but the Barmy Army will, of course, be there to roar on Root’s men across all five days.
It is not one to miss.