England warm-up under way in Sri Lanka

England were given the green light to step up their preparations in Sri Lanka on Friday morning, beginning an intra-squad warm-up match in Hambantota after returning a second clear round of Covid-19 tests.

All-rounder Moeen Ali tested positive on arrival in the country last weekend and is continuing to observe a 10-day quarantine period having started to show mild symptoms, while Chris Woakes is also in isolation having been identified as a close contact.

But the remaining 22 players and backroom team have now tested negative twice in four days and have been allowed to take to the pitch for some head to head practice in the middle, with an XI led by Test captain Joe Root taking on Jos Buttler’s side.

In the absence of Moeen and Woakes, Surrey’s Ollie Pope was drafted in to make up the numbers despite only travelling with the squad to build up his fitness following a dislocated shoulder. He was scheduled to open the batting for Team Buttler but has not been added to the official squad or reserve list.

England plan to play for 100 overs on Friday, and could choose to give both sides equal batting time with the possibility of rain in the region on Saturday. The first Test begins in Galle on January 14.