Australia markets closed

    +28.60 (+0.41%)

    +0.0024 (+0.31%)
  • ASX 200

    +28.80 (+0.43%)
  • OIL

    +1.31 (+1.98%)
  • GOLD

    +4.90 (+0.29%)

    +1,281.66 (+1.99%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    +82.24 (+8.72%)

Joe Root stays cool as England seal fourth overseas win in row for first time since 1957

Will Macpherson
·2-min read

As he spoke in the aftermath of a fine win in Galle, there was no sense that Joe Root was getting carried away. He knows England are only in the foothills of the epic Asian adventure that opens a year that could define careers.

The message was of quietly building confidence for greater challenges ahead and an acknowledgment that England were far from perfect. They had enough of a half-time lead to survive a spirited fightback that gave a young team a lesson in how tough things can get in the subcontinent, but plenty of room for improvement.

Their spinners, Jack Leach and Dom Bess, need to continue the development shown yesterday. Their openers, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, need to adapt to conditions quickly. And they need more natural close catchers, because chances cannot be missed.

But this was England's fourth overseas win in a row, which they had not managed since 1957, and this one was done the hard way, too. They have not won overseas having batted second for five years, since Johannesburg in 2016, when they also chased 74.

It was a win that showed England's increasing options overseas and squad depth, despite being shorn of seven players.

There were little things: their varied group of seamers providing control and chipping in with important wickets whether the ball was new or not; the spinners finding a way to share 14 wickets while locating their groove after long lay-offs. Jos Buttler producing a fine performance behind the stumps.

Most encouraging were the performances from the batting engine room: Root and the men that provided him the most first-innings support, then finished the job in the second, Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence. Their third- and fourth-wicket partnerships powered England to a first-innings 400 for the fourth time in their last six overseas Tests, something they had done only once in almost three years before that.


Root's performance comes after a period of rest and introspection as he enters his thirties, the perfect preparation for his biggest year. A reminder of Bairstow's qualities and the impressive arrival of Lawrence are vital pieces in the jigsaw. With Ben Stokes, Rory Burns and Ollie Pope to return, it feels like England have great competition for places in their top six.

With an important Test to go in Galle, the signs suggest that England face some interesting selection debates when they get to India. Stokes is a given, while Pope could be a generational batsman and helps that close-fielding. If there is an issue, it is that only two players, Sibley and Burns, open as preference, and they happen to be statistically and stylistically the least comfortable against spin.

Before that is a concern, England have a series to wrap up. Win, and England's year will be off to a flyer.

Read More

Bairstow and Lawrence help England to seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka

England ratings vs Sri Lanka: Root and Lawrence on top; Sibley flops