Af­ter two years of win­ter mis­ery, skip­per Joe hails ‘spe­cial’ win on the road and vows: This won’t be a one-off

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - SPORT -

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.”

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