Run of losses on foreign soil finally halted
ENGLAND captain Joe Root is relishing the prospect of a difficult selection meeting after the Test team recorded their first overseas victory for more than two years.
Root’s side finally halted a 13-game winless streak on foreign soil with a commanding 211-run defeat of Sri Lanka at Galle, emphatically reversing expectations at a venue where the home side typically thrive.
As skipper, Root was buoyed by the collective effort over four days by the Indian Ocean. Debutant wicketkeeper Ben Foakes was named man of the match for his crucial century and tidy glovework, but Keaton Jennings’ meticulous 146 not out in the second innings and Moeen Ali’s best match figures on the road, eight for 137, were equally indispensable.
Sam Curran and Jack Leach also made noteworthy contributions, leaving Root to balance postmatch celebration with considerations for next week’s clash in Kandy.
Jonny Bairstow, the established keeper, is expected to be fit from ankle trouble by then and 123-cap paceman Stuart Broad, dropped here for the first time in six years, will be angling for a recall if the pitch offers encouragement.
“It’s a really special feeling and it’s obviously great to see guys come into the team and really take their opportunities,” said Root after Sri Lanka were dismissed for 250.
“The way we played throughout the four days, with everyone contributing and playing a part is really pleasing.
“It’s great to see the strength in depth in this squad of players.”
There was a gentle reminder too, that egos will not be massaged.
“It’s about performing as a group, not making it about yourself, being involved in the XI,” he said. “The real achievement is to be part of this squad and to hopefully go on to win this tour.”
Foakes suggested he would be ready to buy into that ethic, even hinting he’d stand aside willingly if a fit-again Bairstow was preferred.
Whatever solutions Root and head coach Trevor Bayliss come up with in the coming days they will be hoping they lead to a rare series victory on the road. Since beating South Africa on the road in 2015/16 there have been failed attempts in Bangladesh, India, Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s not just us, like we’re the only side that struggles away from home, it’s across the board in Test cricket,” Root said.