UP UP AND AWAY
After two years of winter misery, skipper Joe hails ‘special’ win on the road and vows: This won’t be a one-off
IT took 746 days, 30 players, 14 matches and two captains, but after two miserable winters in India, Australia and New Zealand England finally ended their winless streak away from home.
With hundreds of fans cheering from the ramparts overlooking the beautiful Galle ground, England made this Sri Lankan fortress their own in a resounding 211-run win that also gave Joe Root his first overseas victory as skipper.
While Moeen Ali took eight wickets and Ben Stokes chipped in with a half century and a trio of slip catches, this was a win for the next generation of England Test players.
The twin tons from man-of-thematch Ben Foakes and Keaton Jennings were the foundations on which this result was built to suggest a first series win in Sri Lanka for almost 18 years is within their grasp.
“It feels special,” said
Root. “We played some really good stuff. We were consistent throughout the four days so it is pleasing to be in this position.
“The away record has obviously been frustrating, but it’s across the board when it comes to Test cricket. It’s not just us, we’re not the only side that struggles away from home.
“It’s very difficult to win Test matches abroad now. I think that makes it even sweeter when you come to a very difficult venue like Galle and manage to win.
“Hopefully we can build on this and it’s not just a one-off. This last eight months or so we’ve found something, we’ve had a real clear plan as to how we want to get to No.1 in the world and this was another step in that direction.”
Root will remember what it is like to make such a big impression on debut after his efforts back in 2012 in India, but Foakes arguably went one better with bat and gloves, where in addition to a stumping and two catches he did not concede a single bye.
“It’s great to see guys come into the team and take their opportunities,” added Root. “For Ben to play with such maturity, understanding his own game in a difficult position as well, under pressure, was great to see.
“And Keaton was magnificent, he was composed and knew where he was going to score his runs.
“There is strength in depth in this squad. We’ve some difficult selections ahead, which I’m not complaining about.” Root and his team have earned their extra day off, but he will have to sit down with coach Trevor Bayliss and selector Ed Smith to work out just how they will reshuffle the pack with Jonny Bairstow expected to be fit again.
Moeen (above) was outstanding with the ball, taking 4-71 yesterday to move level with Fred Titmus on 153 as England’s third most successful off-spinner of all time.
His batting at three was far less impressive and that role could be the only route back into the team for Bairstow if, as expected, Foakes keeps the gloves in Kandy.
The Surrey stumper said: “The big thing is just making my debut, being able to say I’m an England Test cricketer. That’s such a special feeling no-one can take away.
“If Jonny comes back and I only play the one, I’m happy with that.”