Cricket

/ News

Powered by ESPNCricinfo
  • England v Sri Lanka, First Test, Day Two

Sri Lanka solid after Root's double-ton

The Report by David Hopps
June 13, 2014 « Beckenbauer provisionally banned by FIFA | WILL TEST Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
Joe Root progressed untroubled to a double-hundred as England piled up the runs © Getty Images
Enlarge

Sri Lanka 140 for 1 (Silva 62*, Sangakkara 32*) trail England 575 for 9 dec (Root 200*, Prior 86, Bell 56, Pradeep 4-123) by 435 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Dip your bread, Joe Root will have been told since childhood on batting days like this. Like Oliver Twist, he dipped his bread and then asked to dip it some more. Sri Lanka did not possess a bowler with the capability to scold him. The outcome was that he became the fourth-youngest England batsman to hit a Test double-century, a poster boy for a new generation.

England's 575 for 9 was their highest Test score since they made 591 for 6 declared against India at The Oval three years ago. Sri Lanka responded in kind, losing only Dimuth Karunaratne in the 40 overs to the close, so encouraging the perception that a draw is achievable and that this Lord's pitch will remain a featherbed to the end.

There are a few lurking signs of indifferent bounce, however, and after a run of six successive draws between 2006 and 2008, there have been ten positive results in the last 11.

This was a bountiful Lord's batting surface and the Sri Lanka attack had serious limitations, but Root's response over eight-and-a-quarter hours was impeccable. He likes Lord's. Last summer, against Australia, he made 180 before missing out on a double century as he attempted a 'Dilscoop'.

There was a uniformity in his progress. He reached his hundred just before the close on the first day. His 150 followed from the last ball before lunch on the second day, another clip through midwicket, an area where he was highly productive, this time off the left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. Herath, too, was lapped for the runs that in turn brought up his 200, an immediate declaration, and an infectious grin.

"Grin away," Bill Sikes told Oliver Twist. "Grin away." But Sikes was menacingly brandishing a poker. Sri Lanka's fielders bore only warm congratulations.

Sri Lanka looked so disconsolate they might have turned Lord's, with all its trappings, into a day in the workhouse. Their over rate was criminal - 12 overs an hour on the second day as they stretched the game out wherever possible to spare their pace bowlers and generally failed to get on with the job. England were not too much better as six overs went unbowled. Test cricket cannot afford such liberties.

Sri Lanka's response with the bat will have steeled their nerves. Anderson had Dimuth Karunaratne lbw in the first over, but Paul Reiffel's decision was overturned on review because the ball was too high. Karunaratne also edged Broad between second and third slip before Chris Jordan dismissed him with his third ball in Test cricket.

But Liam Plunkett's fire was extinguished by the pitch and the suspicion of a leg strain and a measured innings by Kaushal Silva survived into the third day after TV replays spared him a catch at the wicket off Broad when 39. Matt Prior insisted afterwards that it was a clean catch, and cricketing instinct felt that way, but zoomed-in cameras habitually introduce an element of doubt to low catches and this was no different.

England earlier rid themselves of an unwelcome batting statistic when they reached 400 for the first time in 27 innings. As Jonathan Trott and Nick Compton struck hundreds in Wellington only 15 months ago, few would have imagined the canker that would take hold of their batting and the conflicts and personal trauma that would unfold. Back-to-back series against Australia can have that effect.

The jollity of the second day at Lord's had an entirely different feel. England made 129 in the morning session, rattling along at five an over. In no rush to leave the pleasuredome, they piled up a further 102 after lunch.

The new ball was only nine overs old when play resumed on the second morning. But the day was warm and sunny, the pitch sedate and Root and Prior already had 135 runs in the bank from the first day. The Middlesex flag flew at half mast in memory of their former coach, Don Bennett; many Sri Lanka players wore black armbands to mourn the death of the wife of their former bowling coach, Champika Ramanayake.

It was not long before Sri Lanka changed tack and started banging the ball halfway down the pitch in the hope of reminding England of their frailties against the short ball in Australia. All they lacked was a Mitchell Johnson. And a quick, bouncy pitch. And a hostile crowd. In fact, come to think of it, they lacked quite a lot.

Shaminda Eranga, short of match practice, had looked out of synch on the first day, but he carried the short-ball fight with resolve. Prior and Jordan both fell to short balls into the body from around the wicket, Prior angry with himself as he fended to short leg, still 14 runs short of a century, Jordan looking more mystified as his shot in self-protection arced gently to the wicketkeeper.

That keeper was Prasanna Jayawardene, although he had not taken the field at the start of the day after injuring a hand in the warm-up. While Jayawardene had a scan - which showed no real damage - Silva, a regular wicketkeeper, deputised.

Sri Lanka were content to encourage Root off the strike, but when they did so they met a barrage of blows from the lower order, briefly from Jordan and latterly from Broad and Plunkett. Broad's gung-ho innings ended on 47 when he slapped Nuwan Pradeep to deep midwicket - he might have been stumped on the same score - and Plunkett looked quizzically upon Sri Lanka's short-ball trap - fine leg, long leg, deep square leg, square leg and short leg, and pulled three boundaries in an over. He got out pulling eventually, which on the law of averages alone was no surprise.

Root never became involved in such fripperies. He remained sharp of wit and clean of stroke, never rushed (at least not until the closing overs), but always keen enough to keep his innings interesting. It was an innings which might have shaped a career. Whether it will reshape the game remains to be seen.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Close