England skipper Joe Root, who was named Man of the Match in the first Test for his double ton, expressed that he was pleased to answer critics by scoring big, after having not scored a century in 15 innings. Root’s 228 in the first innings helped England to a convincing 7-wicket win in Galle.
By his own high standards, Joe Root enjoyed a pretty underwhelming 2020, averaging slightly over 42 without scoring a ton, and so the pressure was on the England skipper to deliver, heading into the first Test versus the Lankans. Root walked in to bat in daunting conditions with England reeling at 17/2, and it looked evident that the visitors needed something special from the bat of their talisman to kick-start their winter on a winning note.
Having notched up just two centuries since the start of 2019, there existed a fear that Root might yet again throw away a start and fail to convert, but the right-hander made his harshest critics eat humble pie, by scoring an impeccable double-ton, the fourth of his illustrious career.
The 228 from the bat of the England skipper helped the side take a substantial lead, and though the hosts fought back in the second dig, it was enough for the visitors to wrap up a convincing win and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Speaking post the victory, Root expressed that he was pleased to be able to convert a start, score a big one and silence the critics.
“Thing that pleased me the most was my mindset, felt I got into a good place, managed to get my feet apart and get forward and back well, good balance between attack and defence and didn't waver. People have been critical of my conversion, so nice to go and make a big one," Root, who was named Man of the Match for his effort, said in the post match presentation.
England’s victory was set up by Root’s knock, yet it was their spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess who delivered the final punch. After taking six wickets between them in the first innings thanks to some ordinary Lankan batting, the spin twins put up a much improved, grafty performance in the second, and accounted for 8 of the 10 Sri Lankan wickets to fall. The Galle Test was, in fact, the first instance in the 21st century of two England spinners taking a five-fer in the same Test.
Root was full of praise for the duo, and branded the pair’s showing as a ‘brilliant achievement’.
"To come here with little preparation, and play in the manner we have has been really impressive. Great effort yesterday, not a lot fell for us, and for the two spinners to get five-fors is a brilliant effort, particularly with the little cricket they've played. Series like these are always tough but without the prep it's testament to their characters.
“To perform like we did after lunch was a good effort, we'll keep looking to get better, but a really pleasing start. [Spinners] Brilliant achievement, think the exciting thing is there's more to come from this group,” the 30-year-old said.
England, with the win, went 1-0 up in the series, but it is just the beginning of a long winter for the Three Lions, who still have five more Tests to play in the sub continent. The England skipper insisted that it was imperative that his side carried the attitude heading forward.
“Most important thing is we have that attitude into the next Tests."
The second Test will also be played in Galle, and will commence on January 22.