Joe Root said that England had made a “brilliant start” to their busiest ever year in Test match cricket after hitting his first Test century for 14 months to help his team reach a commanding position on the second day in Galle.
Root’s undefeated 168, sharing a 173-run partnership with debutant Dan Lawrence, who hit 73, led England to 320 for four, a lead of 185 runs, at the close of a rain-affected second day. The pitch is already taking considerable turn.
“I did a lot of talking before the game and ahead of this year I thought it was really important to go out there and do it myself,” Root said. “It felt like a long time coming and I’ve got to build on this, really make it count, make it as big as possible and drive this first innings lead as high as we can and do all we can to get a strong score that means we only bat once.
“It’s a really nice start,” Root added. “Their first-innings showed exactly what can happen here: very quickly lose a couple of wickets and all of a sudden you’re not as in a strong a position as you might have thought. It’s really important that we stay ruthless, we really make the most of this brilliant start.”
Root admitted that he has felt the pressure of not having scored a Test century since the tour of New Zealand in November 2019.
“I tried to get away from it. For the last year, two years, I’ve over-thought it massively — made too big a deal of it in my own mind. Hyped it up and probably because of that it’s been to my detriment. So I tried to very much get in a one-on-one context with each individual bowler and not try and think about anything other than ticking off one at a time with the guy at the other end, building a partnership as much as we could.
“One thing I was really pleased with was my shot selection. I felt I got a really good combination of defence and attack and managed to pick the right balls the majority of the time, which helps. It’s about doing that more often and being really disciplined with that in practice. I want to really make the most of opportunities like that one.”
Two employees in England’s team hotel, The Lighthouse, have tested positive for Covid-19, but England, who left their limited overs tour of South Africa early due to Covid-19 concerns before Christmas, have no qualms about continuing with the tour.
“That’s why we’ve got a compliance officer with us,” Root said. “Phil Davies has done a brilliant job making us safe, that’s what he’s here to do, all the lads feel very safe in everything.”
“We are not concerned. Our protocols have been excellent and we continue to be vigilant,” said an England spokesperson.
It is still unclear, however, when Moeen Ali, who has been isolating for 12 days in separate accommodation in a wing of the Lighthouse hotel, will be able to resume training.
“He remains isolated at a different hotel to the team in Galle,” said the ECB spokesperson. “He continues to receive care from Sri Lanka and England medical teams and will return to the squad as soon as it is safe to do so. We have yet to be given a date of when this will be.”