Se­lec­tion headache does not worry skip­per Root

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Cricket, Football - RORY DOL­LARD in Galle

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, 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 post-match cel­e­bra­tion with con­sid­er­a­tions for next week’s clash in Kandy.

Jonny Bairstow, the es­tab­lished wick­et­keeper, is ex­pected to be fit from an­kle trou­ble by then, and 123cap 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. We’ve some dif­fi­cult se­lec­tions ahead, which I’m not com­plain­ing about. I’m go­ing to en­joy that meet­ing.

“It is go­ing to be tough, but that’s what you want. You want guys per­form­ing and to make those tough calls. Whether that’s leav­ing peo­ple out, keep­ing the same team, shuf­fling the pack slightly, we’ll have to wait and see.”

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 win this tour.”

Foakes sug­gested he would be ready to buy into that ethic, even hint­ing he would stand aside will­ingly if a fit-again Bairstow was pre­ferred.

The very idea of bench­ing a man who played the Sri Lankan con­di­tions with such poise and has the po­ten­tial to be a world beater be­hind the stumps might ap­pear friv­o­lous from the out­side, but hav­ing joined the trip as in­jury cover he is mak­ing no de­mands.

“Jonny, I think, will po­ten­tially be fit so I guess he’s the num­ber one,” said the Sur­rey man. “If I (only) play one game, I’m quite happy with that one. To be hon­est if you asked me two weeks ago I was hav­ing six months off so just to be sat here now is un­be­liev­able.

“The big thing for me is just mak­ing my de­but, be­ing able to say you’re an Eng­land Test crick­eter. Re­gard­less of what’s hap­pened that’s such a spe­cial feel­ing that no one can take away.”

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. “That makes it even sweeter when you do 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 for us. We can go to Kandy with huge amounts of con­fi­dence and look to still im­prove and get bet­ter.” CHRIS Todd has backed tal­ented young­ster Noah Smer­don to go on to big­ger things af­ter he spent a week train­ing with Watford.

The Glouces­ter City left-back, who only turned 18 last month, has caught the eye for the Tigers this sea­son and is at­tract­ing in­ter­est from higher lev­els.

“He’s an out­stand­ing tal­ent,” said Glouces­ter boss Todd. “I’m re­ally pleased for Noah. This club is about pro­duc­ing play­ers, he went to Watford and did him­self proud, so I’m sure he’ll go onto big­ger things and that’s down to Glouces­ter City, so there are lots of pos­i­tives. This club has got so much go­ing for it. We’ve got lots of tal­ent, it’s go­ing places, so I’m lov­ing ev­ery minute.”

Todd aims to get a first Na­tional League South win as boss against Hemel Hemp­stead to­day.

Else­where, Chip­pen­ham visit sixth-placed St Al­bans, who are six places, but only two points bet­ter off than the Blue­birds.

Chip­pen­ham’s in­jury cri­sis and sus­pen­sions sees them without a com­plete team. Skip­per Greg Tin­dle un­der­went an op­er­a­tion on his hip in­jury this week, but is un­likely to fea­ture this sea­son.

Bath City, mean­while, will try to bounce back from last week’s sur­pris­ing home de­feat to Hemel Hemp­stead when they play away to Weald­stone to­day.

Eranga Jayawardena/AP

Eng­land’s Som­er­set spin­ner Jack Leach cel­e­brates the dis­missal of Kusal Mendis

Eng­land 342 (B T Foakes 107, M D K Per­era 5-75) & 322-6 dec (K K Jen­nings 146 no, B A Stokes 62), Sri Lanka 203 (A D Mathews 52 M M Ali 4-66) & 15-0. F D M Karunaratne c & b M M Ali ................................................... 26 J K Silva lbw b L

Joe Root walks off be­hind there­tir­ing Ran­ganaHerath

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