Five questions for England in Sri Lanka

Burns' consistency across seasons merited Test elevation - Ed Smith (2:09)

England's chief selector Ed Smith explains the factors that led to Rory Burns and Joe Denly finding a spot in the Test squad for the Sri Lanka tour (2:09)

Who will open the batting?

England's first Test squad in more than 12 years not to include AN Cook has left a hefty hole to fill at the top of the order. Surrey's Rory Burns, who has passed 1000 Championship runs in each of the last five seasons and is a substance-over-style practitioner in Cook's mould, looks set to be given his chance, most likely alongside Keaton Jennings, despite an underwhelming return to Test cricket this summer. Ed Smith, the national selector, suggested Jennings "was in our best squad to beat Sri Lanka" - where England have not played a Test in six-and-a-half years - and would be able to draw on his maiden hundred in Mumbai two years ago, given the likelihood of similar spin-friendly conditions, but further failures could open the door for Joe Denly. Speaking of whom...

Moeen or Denly at No. 3?

Denly, the Kent batsman who, at 32, is also enjoying a late-career renaissance as a back-up legspinner, won a recall eight years after playing the last of his 14 limited-overs internationals for England. Having begun his career as an opener, he has alternated between batting at No. 3 and 4 for Kent this season, and clearly provides Trevor Bayliss and Joe Root with much-needed options at the top of the order. Moeen Ali, of course, finished the Test series against India at No. 3, making a watchful half-century at The Oval, and Smith suggested he would be likely to retain the role in slow, low Sri Lankan conditions. But Denly, who has averaged 49.77 in first-class cricket over the last two years, may emerge as a more viable long-term option.

How to balance the middle order

With Root back at No. 4, England will likely return to their favoured combo in the engine room: Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes. Bairstow reclaimed the gloves in the fifth Test against India, having made his preferences clear when an injured finger led to him playing as a specialist batsman at the Ageas Bowl. Jos Buttler may seem a luxury down at No. 7 (and it is interesting to note his maiden Test hundred came at No. 6) but he enjoyed himself in the role after Smith summoned him from the IPL for an unexpected comeback, and showed a knack for batting with the tail. With Sam Curran or Chris Woakes, most likely, to come in at No. 8, England will retain their formidable capacity to bat deep.

Should Broad or Anderson be rested?

Both senior pace bowlers (with 997 Test wickets between them) were included, despite some suggestions that Stuart Broad, in particular, was ripe for resting. James Anderson, fresh from passing Glenn McGrath to become the most prolific quick in Test history, has a slightly better record than Broad in Asian conditions, as well as being more adept at finding reverse swing, and could find himself playing alongside Curran and Woakes in a three-man seam attack, supplemented by Stokes. The other, more tantalising, option would be to unleash Olly Stone at some stage, giving England a genuine 90mph option. His county coach, Ashley Giles, however, has warned Stone needs to be handled with care on pitches that are unlikely to do him many favours.

Who is the No. 1 spinner?

The reaction to Adil Rashid's selection for the Tests against India, having opted for a white-ball only contract with Yorkshire at the start of the year, was in some quarters on a par with a political scandal. He then proceeded to play the role of 'stalking horse', involved only on the periphery, before Moeen roared back into the Test side with 9 for 134 at the Ageas Bowl. But Moeen has often preferred to operate as the back-up spinner, while Rashid cannot expect to average fewer than 10 overs per innings, as he did in the India series, even in return for the odd magic ball. Will England contemplate playing three spinners, as Sri Lanka often do at home, with Jack Leach supporting Moeen and Rashid? That is another question for Root and Bayliss to weigh up before the series starts on November 6.