Root prof­its from bold tac­tics and multi-lay­ered at­tack

Cap­tain shows care­ful man-man­age­ment to ex­ploit va­ri­ety among Eng­land’s bowlers

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | First Test - Nick Hoult CRICKET NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Galle

Joe Root waited by the bound­ary rope for each of his bowlers, slap­ping them on the back one by one as they walked off af­ter rip­ping out Sri Lanka for 203.

Root recog­nised this was a team ef­fort, a big mo­ment for a young side who have en­dured aw­ful days on the road in re­cent years.

Bat­tered in In­dia, pum­melled in Aus­tralia – the past two win­ters have been dis­mal and Eng­land’s bowlers have taken 20 wick­ets in a Test on the road only once since beat­ing Bangladesh in Oc­to­ber 2016, and even that was in a de­feat (by In­dia in Visakha­p­at­nam).

They are half­way there in this game al­ready af­ter the seam­ers and spin­ners, led by Moeen Ali, com­bined po­tently to make the most of a good first-in­nings to­tal, a rar­ity in re­cent times.

The mon­soon stayed away and the In­dian Ocean shim­mered un­der a hot sun for the first time since the tour started to pro­duce a day that nor­mally melts English hopes rather than those of Sri Lanka. But Eng­land’s multi-lay­ered at­tack con­tains the full house of right-arm seam, left-arm swing, off-spin, leg-spin, left-arm fin­ger spin and the sheer ag­gres­sion of Ben Stokes with his bounc­ers, cut­ters and snarl. Root al­ways has op­tions so bowlers can be ro­tated and rested.

Sam Cur­ran jus­ti­fied his se­lec­tion ahead of Stu­art Broad by strik­ing with his ninth ball, the re­ward for pitch­ing it up and swing­ing it into the pads, the job he was picked to do. James An­der­son made bats­men play at ev­ery de­liv­ery with his pre­ci­sion be­fore com­ing back for a five-over spell of cut­ters to a tight, close field that squeezed Sri Lanka just as they were build­ing a part­ner­ship.

Root showed his man­man­age­ment skills, choos­ing to bring Jack Leach on ahead of more ex­pe­ri­enced spin­ners, a con­fi­dence boost for a bowler play­ing only his sec­ond Test.

Leach ragged his first ball past the out­side edge and quickly looked like he was play­ing on a

turner in Taun­ton. It took 83 balls to con­cede a bound­ary and his two wick­ets could have been more, but he was happy enough with his sec­ond, ju­bi­lantly shout­ing “caught But­tler bowled Leach” as he cel­e­brated with his old team­mate from Som­er­set un­der-11 days.

Root backed it all up with imag­i­na­tive fields but did not over-at­tack or get car­ried away, partly be­cause he knows his two most se­nior spin­ners do not like crowd­ing the bat with field­ers, and Leach is in­ex­pe­ri­enced. Sharp field­ing helped, too, and Root was at the fore­front, field­ing on his knees with a hel­met at short sec­ond slip be­cause of the low bounce.

Last win­ter, Moeen man­aged only three wick­ets in six Tests and was re­lieved when he was told in Christchurch that he was be­ing dropped for the first time in his Eng­land ca­reer. But he now ap­pears to be en­joy­ing his role as the fa­ther fig­ure of the spin at­tack that shared eight wick­ets.

Adil Rashid is his close friend but al­ways trails be­hind, liv­ing in his shadow like a school­boy

al­low­ing the cooler kid to do the talk­ing.

Leach has found Moeen a gen­er­ous source of ad­vice and a wel­com­ing pres­ence. “A gun off-spin­ner” is how he de­scribed Moeen. “I can’t thank Mo and Rash enough for how re­laxed they made me feel and helped me. It is a great group to be in­volved in, we are al­ways bounc­ing ideas off each other even out in the mid­dle,” he said. “We had clear idea of how we wanted to do things, the fields we wanted, how we wanted to bowl.”

Moeen bowled a bet­ter line than Sri Lanka’s spin­ners and so threat­ened both edges of the bat. Rashid was clever with vari­a­tions, hold­ing back his goo­gly un­til faced with tail-en­ders, bowl­ing it only once in his first seven overs. He has six Tests this win­ter on spin­ning tracks to prove he is a Test bowler.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.