Win­ter break on hold to bask in heat of Test

Sport360 - - England v Sri Lanka - By Rory Dol­lard @thervd ✉ ed­i­to­rial@sport360.com

Ben Foakes thought he would be watch­ing Eng­land’s first Test against Sri Lanka from the side­lines but ended up play­ing a star­ring role on day one of his un­ex­pected de­but.

Sur­rey wick­et­keeper Foakes had planned for a rare win­ter at home af­ter miss­ing out on the 16-man squad but joined up as cover when reg­u­lar glove­man Jonny Bairstow suf­fered an an­kle in­jury dur­ing the re­cent one-day se­ries.

Eng­land’s ini­tial in­stincts were to hand the gloves to white-ball keeper Jos But­tler but took a late swerve to­wards the 25-year-old, a de­ci­sion that is al­ready pay­ing div­i­dends be­fore he has even had a chance to stand up to the stumps. Com­ing in af­ter a flaky top-or­der per­for­mance left the tourists 103 for five in Galle, Foakes put to­gether an as­sured, as­sid­u­ous 87 not out to an­chor an in­nings of 321 for eight.

Against a ro­tat­ing cast of spin­ners and the doughty Su­ranga Lak­mal he gave his team a much-needed back­bone and show­cased both the tech­nique and the judge­ment to suc­ceed at the high­est level.

All the more sur­pris­ing, then, that he was caught off-guard by his own se­lec­tion.

“I only found out yes­ter­day dur­ing train­ing when Rooty (Joe Root) came to tell me. I was quite shocked to be fair,” he said.

“It was a whirl­wind. I didn’t think I’d be play­ing. I was a lit­tle sur­prised but it was a proud mo­ment.

“I had a lot of emo­tions this morn­ing but to get out there and get off the mark set­tled me down a bit.”

Un­til Bairstow’s un­timely tum­ble Foakes did not even think he would be in Sri Lanka, never mind per­form­ing in such style in front of over 8,000 fans – 6,130 in­side the sta­dium and the re­main­der watch­ing from atop the pic­turesque Galle Fort.

“I’d heard about Jonny’s an­kle but I still wasn’t sure if I’d be com­ing out,” he added. “I’d just got back from a lads’ trip to Lis­bon when Ed Smith (na­tional se­lec­tor) gave me a ring... good prepa­ra­tion. I was go­ing to have six months off, orig­i­nally. I’ve had quite a few Eng­land Li­ons trips so it was just to kind of clear my head, get way from cricket for a lit­tle while and come back fresh. Plans change, don’t they?”

Foakes’ com­posed in­nings is not just a per­sonal tri­umph, but an in­sti­tu­tional one for the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board. He has trav­elled to Sri Lanka three times with the Li­ons and once on a place­ment with Colombo-based Colts CC, learn­ing more about the alien con­di­tions each time.

De­but to re­mem­ber: Ben Foakes.

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