“Hello from Bangkok.” Hello there, Leo Philips. “I notice that it is a nice patch of England batsman Root finds himself in as regards all time career aggregates having just overtaken Boycott’s 8,114, and with Pietersen 8,181, and Gower 8,231 in reach today… with Stewart next on 8,463 (before we reach the great IVA Richards on 8,540).” That he is – let’s tick them off. And a 100th Test cap in his next start.
Here the full list for England. Given how many Tests he is going to play in 2021, he’s almost certain to go from 8th to 2nd in the space of a year.
What a gem of an innings this is from Joe Root. We all sensed last night that he was putting something special together, and this morning he made his way to a 19th Test ton from just his 139th ball in the middle. It’s an innings that has included sweeps, reverse sweeps, drives, a switch hit – the works. After losing Bairstow (28) and Lawrence (3) to the superb Embuldeniya – who has all four of Sri Lanka’s wickets – the England captain needed support and got it through Buttler, who eats his sandwich on 30 with the partnership worth 49. All told, a super contest.
54th over: England 181-4 (Root 105, Buttler 30) More information on the Buttler saga: they’ve picked up on the stump mics that he was actually given out leg before wicket. And, because he hit it, they didn’t need to use ball tracking. There we have it. One, two three singles from the final over, England finishing the hour on a positive note. Two wickets and 83 runs in the session; England trail by 200.
54th over: England 178-4 (Root 103, Buttler 29) There’s still a bit of confusion out there – is DRS available at one end and not the other? That’s what Root wants to clarify before facing up to Embuldeniya, who is brought back to bowl one over before the lunch break. Buttler gets a couple when he overpitches but then plays and misses at the one that breaks big away from the right-hander. He follows it with the quicker one darted in at off-stump. Class. By my clock that should be lunch, they’re not in position, but they’re going to let them squeeze another in.
53rd over: England 175-4 (Root 102, Buttler 27) Some controversy here: the players were, so TV is reporting, told that DRS wasn’t able to be used at this moment because the technology is down. But then, Buttler did use it. So, Chandimal, the Sri Lankan captain, isn’t happy. Play continues, and the right decision was arrived at, but that episode is going to prompt a stewards’ inquiry at the lunch break.
NOT OUT! A lot going on but the edge on the reverse sweep is into the ground. The poor old third umpire is battling to relay that information to Umpire Dharmasena but he gets there in the end with the correct decision. Buttler survives.
IS BUTTLER CAUGHT IN CLOSE? Kumar Dharmasena says so but Jos is reviewing.
52nd over: England 173-4 (Root 102, Buttler 26) Shot! Jos at his best, slamming a cover drive on the up into the gap and holding his pose for just long enough. And it’s back to back boundaries, leaning back to ride the bounce through the gully.
Those boundaries will put an end to that Bannerman chat – fun while it lasted. On that, Malcolm Brown in Tuscany, where he insists it is wet and windy. “The irony about Slater’s 123 is that when he was dismissed he was ahead of Bannerman, but his inconsiderate team mates added 4 runs for the last 2 wickets, thus taking the record away from him.”
For the best, as we never would have heard the end of how he was (probably) incorrectly given not out by the third umpire. Oh wait, that’s the case anyway!
51st over: England 164-4 (Root 102, Buttler 17) Dilruwan goes around the wicket with the changed ball, a slip and short leg in for Buttler after Root gets off strike. The England wicketkeeper is playing a careful game for the most part but is happy to unfurl a checked-drive to finish, out through cover for three. Nice and steady.
50th over: England 160-4 (Root 101, Buttler 14) Asitha Fernando goes again at Root – a largely tidy set, attacking the stumps. The skipper keeps the strike with a single off leg stump. Now it looks like they’re going to change the ball between overs.
49th over: England 159-4 (Root 100, Buttler 14) Dilruwan bowls the over that takes Root from 98 to 100, Buttler celebrating the skipper’s milestone with a reverse sweep of his own, albeit to a man in the deep. Root has faced just 139 deliveries – a strke rate of 72. Other than Buttler (52), nobody in this match has gone at better than 50. It wasn’t long ago that Root was widely seen as a member of Test batting’s Big Four alongside Smith, Kohli and Williamson. That’s not the case at the moment but he’s batting in a fashion that could see him back there quickly. As a leader and a player, 2021 will go some way to defining his career. What a way to start it.
Joe Root brings up his 19th Test century!
He gets there with a single to midwicket. What a performance from England’s number one, striking 14 boundaries along the way, combining the conventional with the innovative. Tons in consecutive Test Matches; his third in Sri Lanka.
48th over: England 154-4 (Root 98, Buttler 11) Asitha Fernando on for his first twist of the third day, bowling five wicketless overs yesterday. Root is drive away from a ton but he won’t get it here, clipping a single instead. Back to Buttler, who has wound it back after his quick start, defending soundly then driving to cover, straight to the man stationed there for that very shot. England are 227 behind.
47th over: England 153-4 (Root 97, Buttler 11) Root to 97 via an inside edge – a bit of reverse from Lakmal? Buttler plays the rest of the over defensively. A good one.
“Is anyone every going to break the Bannerman?” asks Matthew Beggs on twitter. “Think the closest that I’ve ever seem and still likely to see is Slater’s 123 out of 184. It’s like the ultimate impossible goal.”
The impossible dream! And yes, without a doubt my favourite cricket record.
46th over: England 152-4 (Root 96, Buttler 11) Such good batting from Root, sweeping with authority through midwicket from the first ball of the new Embuldeniya over. Given his chance, Buttler than does exactly the same thing to race into double figures. Having knocked the spinner off his length, he then oversteps for the third time today. When you consider Nathan Lyon has played 100 Tests without bowling a no-ball, that’s quite a good effort from the young man.
45th over: England 142-4 (Root 91, Buttler 7) Uppish from Buttler! Hard hands, in the air to cover off Lakmal, and not far away at all from the man catching in there. I realise the 43rd over post didn’t submit, by the way – not sure what happened there. At the time, I described a pedestrian maiden from Lakmal to Root.
“Good morning Adam!” Good morning to you, Chris Bourne in Poole. That’s where my mum was born. “We’d all be complaining about Root if he’d got himself out with the switch hit, but it’s certainly good to see how confident he’s become while retaining the captaincy. Nevertheless, he can’t win this one by himself. I suspect Sri Lanka still has the upper hand, since it will take Root and at least one other England batter to go big in order to get a lead over Sri Lanka. Batting last, they need some sort of a cushion, don’t you think?”
Yep, they’re behind in this game now. Using WinViz as a blunt, the hosts are currently at 56% and England 32%. That feels about right to me. As for Root, it’s a joy to see him batting like this. More of it. The perfect time for a golden year.
44th over: England 139-4 (Root 90, Buttler 5) Buttler pushes Bannerman back into the lead with a picture-perfect reverse sweep off Embuldeniya to start his new over – what a shot. I remember talking to Glenn Maxwell about the reverse and he explained that he feels more comfortable using it than the conventional sweep because he has spent so long fine-tuning it over so many years. Buttler falls into a similar category. Root gets his turn and plays carefully even when a full toss comes, happy to knock it out to deep midwicket for one. Into the 90s. Drinks. That’s Sri Lanka’s hour thanks to the fine work of their classy left-arm tweaker.
42nd over: England 132-4 (Root 89, Buttler 0) Embuldeniya, what an impressive young bowler. To the new man Buttler, he brings him forward and pushes him back, mixing up his pace and turn. He has all four of Sri Lanka’s wickets.
A long way to go but this is a tasty thought with Root currently contributing 67.4 per cent of England’s runs. The Bannerman mark was 67.35. Watch this space.
WICKET! Lawrence c Thirimanne b Embuldeniya 3 (England 132-4)
Fantastic bowling! Lawrence had to come forward to a delivery angled in at middle stump on a perfect length. It spun sharply, kissed the edge and ended up in the safe hands of Thirimanne at first slip. England have plenty of work to do now.
41st over: England 132-3 (Root 89, Lawrence 3) Seam for the first time today, Lakmal replacing Dilruwan. He’s attacking the stumps from the get-go, which is why both men are able to nurlde singles to fine leg when he gets a tad too straight.
“Morning Adam, thanks for warming the early hours, especially with a busted boiler here.” My pleasure, Paul Turp in Liverpool. Although it must be said, I’m in Australia at the moment on a steamy Sunday afternoon, returning to the UK in late February. “Thoroughly enjoying Dickwella’s sledging about the rotation/resting/dropping of YJB. He’s right isn’t he?! If he was as quick a wicketkeeper as he is a wit, we’d be done for! All the best.”
Yes, at the very moment, it jars. Per the Tim de Lisle piece I linked to earlier on, there’s definitely a place for rotation and rest. But YJB in India just makes sense.
40th over: England 130-3 (Root 88, Lawrence 2) Oh, won’t you look at that? The best of white-ball cricket implemented expertly in the Test Match arena, Root nailing his switch hit through point for four. This was such a wonderful part of the Gabba chase I had the great fortune to witness and call on radio last week, Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar drawing from their T20 best to win a classic Test. I’ve seen the alternative view advanced in recent days, that white ballers should be banned from First Class cricket. Ummm, yeah, wouldn’t have thought so.
38th over: England 122-3 (Root 82, Lawrence 2) “The end of a superb half an hour of Test Match cricket,” says Mark Butcher as Embuldeniya comes to the end of another probing over, spinning it big at Lawrence, the young man defending positively. A lot to like about their early exchanges. England still trail by 259.
37th over: England 119-3 (Root 81, Lawrence 1) Dilruwan oversteps – can’t be doing that as a spinner. Root then gets off strike behind square. Lawrence is safely off the mark too in the same direction around the corner. Back to the main action: Embuldeniya’s spell. “Trying to get caught up on the match, how is the fielding positioning going?” asks Peter from Camberley, still in bed. “Are they looking aggressive?” They were for both men but now not so much for Root, the short leg taken out after he walloped a half-tracker off the left-armer. Mark Butcher isn’t thrilled with that conservative decision and I share his frustration.
36th over: England 116-3 (Root 80, Lawrence 0) A fine piece of bowling from the left-arm spinner to Bairstow, getting both drift and dip. Ohh, and he’s getting one to turn big at Lawrence, just missing his outside edge to end the successful over.
WICKET! Bairstow c O Fernando b Embuldeniya 28 (England 116-3)
Yep, a big inside edge before landing at slip. Sri Lanka, who have bowled very nicely so far this morning with Embuldeniya leading the way, get an early reward.
IS BAIRSTOW CAUGHT AT SLIP? He’s given not out but Sri Lanka have immediately sent it upstairs. They’re certain there was an inside edge.
35th over: England 111-2 (Root 75, Bairstow 28) The 100-run stand is also up between this pair. Back to Bairstow with Root taking a single behind square from the penultimate ball, preparing to face his first delivery from Dilruwan today. He’s forward and defending, albeit not far away from the man at short leg. Between overs, Dickwella is into YJB’s aforementioned India omission on the stump mic: “Why drop him? Why drop him? He is their best player! After the captain.”
34th over: England 110-2 (Root 74, Bairstow 28) Bairstow dances and wallops Embuldeniya over his head for four. Shot. What a fantastic player of spin. As Nasser Hussain said in his commentary overnight, it does seem a touch odd than YJB won’t be in India for the first two Tests of that series. Of course, it makes sense to carefully manage the three-format players over this hectic winter, but still.
33rd over: England 104-2 (Root 73, Bairstow 24) Root misses another sweep off Dilruwan, his front pad hit and the Sri Lankan fielders up in appeal… turned down. He was well outside the line though, so no review is considered. The hosts have started well here, asking the right questions before Root gets himself re-set.
32nd over: England 104-2 (Root 73, Bairstow 24) Embuldeniya to continue from last night, the man with the wickets so far. He’s tight on it too, eventually getting one to dip at Root, the captain just getting down in time with his sweep. Bairstow to face his first delivery of the day to finish the over and he’s safely in behind it.
31st over: England 103-2 (Root 72, Bairstow 24) Root is immediately using his feet trying to clip the first ball past midwicket as Jerusalem begins up on the fort, sung by England’s one fan, Randy Caddick. Oooh, a sweep and a miss and a boundary. Or not a miss – that was a little underedge, as the TV shows and so signalled. Not really a chance for the wicketkeeper Dickwella but ever so close to the stumps. A better sweep to finish, around the corner for a single to retain the strike.
The players are on the field. Joe Root (67) is preparing to face the first ball, out there with Bairstow (24) to resume their 93-run stand. Dilruwan has the ball. PLAY!
Joe Root is chatting to Mark Butcher. “A really important day. It’s pretty much parity so far. We worked hard in the hot conditions and the important thing is doing the same thing now with the bat. We talk a lot about batting big in the first innings and now we have a chance to do that.” On his own aggressive game against spin. “It felt like conditions changed quickly so I had to find a way to combat that. It was about making sure I could dictate terms rather than the other way around.”
Pitch report. Russell Arnold is doing his thing on TV. “It’s drying up and starting the crumble,” the former Sri Lankan batsman says. “It will turn and bounce.” So, nothing revelatory, then. Looks like another clear and red-hot day in Galle.
To get into the mood, here’s Tim de Lisle in the paper. He’s looking at rotation; how it is working so far with Anderson and Broad but why it isn’t a cure-all.
Day two at Galle was one where both teams had a couple of times to drive home the advantage and both were able to wriggle off the hook after getting into strife. All told, it leaves honours just about even as we enter morning three, England 98-2 in reply to Sri Lanka’s 381 with Joe Root having already made his way to 67 dreamy runs after he came together with Jonny Bairstow (24) when the score was 5-2.
So far in this series, the visiting skipper has been a cut above all comers with the blade, using his dazzling feet to deal with the home side’s spinners, be in in defence or in attack. He did plenty of the latter before the close last night, already striking ten boundaries. It’s difficult to think of a time when he’s looked so in control as a batsman since assuming the armband nearly four years ago.
A neat statistical quirk thrown up in this brief tour is that Embuldeniya has picked up both of England’s openers, Dom Sibley and Zac Crawley, in all three innings for single-figure scores. And of course, that only goes to reinforce how impressive Root has been, always walking in before he’s had a chance to enjoy a cuppa.