Welcome to day three of this first Test from Galle, where something would have to go seriously awry for England not to triumph. Perhaps rain is Sri Lanka’s best hope. Both of the first two days have been weather-affected, but so swift was Sri Lanka’s batting disintegration that the tourists have already amassed a 185-run lead.
Captain Joe Root has been the star of the show, putting any 2020 worries behind him with a wonderful unbeaten 168. Have a read of Tim Wigmore on England’s captain right here. And here is a taster:
Where the 2018 Root’s instinctive response to a pressure situation was to counter-attack, this inclination was a little less free-wheeling. Coming in after two early wickets, Root took 30 balls over his first six runs; in defence, he smothered spin with the meticulousness of an archivist poring over a rare manuscript.
Whether in attack or defence, the defining feature of this innings was the decisiveness of Root’s footwork. The worst place to play spin is from an indeterminate position on the crease, neither properly forward nor back – vulnerable to late turn and yet not far back enough to guard against it. England’s top order were often marooned in this awkward position, but Root’s judgement, and alacrity on his feet, helped him avoid this danger zone.
Root shared a fourth-wicket stand of 173 with debutant Dan Lawrence, who provided 73 of the runs in what was a dashing first outing in international cricket.
The Essex batsman instantly delivered on some of the lofty expectations which have been placed on him as one of the county game’s most highly-rated performers, mixing obvious intent with a wider scoring arc than might have been expected following Sir Alastair Cook’s pre-match warning of his leg-side tendencies.
With Rory Burns, Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes all currently absent for different reasons, Lawrence certainly did enough to suggest selection meetings may soon become tricky affairs.
“I was very impressed, I thought he played magnificently well,” said Root. “It’s great to see guys coming in and having success straight away. But the most important thing is they see that as the start, something to build on and don’t just be happy with it. He showed exactly why he deserved his opportunity to play and it’s the start of something very special for him.”
As for his plans for today, Root said: “I’m trying to make [his hundred] another really big one and drive the game forward. We want to put them under pressure and bat just once.”
Play gets underway at the slightly earlier time of 4.15am (GMT) to try and make up for some of the overs lost to rain.