GALLE: Joe Root notched his first Test century in more than a year and Dan Lawrence made an impressive debut as England took control in a rain-affected first Test against Sri Lanka here on Friday.
Root was unbeaten on 168 off 254 balls and Lawrence made 73 from 150 deliveries with England cruising to 320-4 before rain denied further play on the second day after tea at the Galle International Stadium.
The visitors now lead by 185 runs with six wickets in hand on a wicket that has started to show signs of plenty of spin.
England had rattled Sri Lanka for 135 in the first innings inside the first two sessions on Thursday with off-spinner Dom Bess claiming 5-30 and veteran seamer Stuart Broad picking 3-20.
Root and Lawrence defied Sri Lanka’s plans with a 173-run stand as wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella twice missed opportunities to hold onto the edges off Lawrence’s bat.
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera finally got the breakthrough late in the second session with the second new ball when Lawrence gloved a catch to forward short leg.
The Essex batsman showed lot of maturity in his debut Test with his back foot and front foot drives and even played exquisite cut shots against spinners. He hit six fours and his debut half century also included a six over midwicket off slow left-armer Lasith Embuldeniya, who was Sri Lanka’s most successful bowler with 3-131.
Earlier, Root survived a leg before wicket television referral off Perera’s second ball of the day after the start was delayed 70 minutes because of rain.
But Embuldeniya got overnight batsman Jonny Bairstow caught in short gully. Bairstow couldn’t add to his overnight 47 but added a vital 114 with his skipper.
Root, 66 overnight, completed his 18th Test century and second in Sri Lanka with a single in the first over after lunch off 163 balls with seven fours as the England captain grew in confidence.
It was Root’s first Test century since scoring 226 against New Zealand in Hamilton in November 2019.
Root continued to dominate the spinners and reached 150 off 225 balls when he guided Embuldeniya behind point for a single.
“In the last two years I have made too much of a big deal about it in my own mind, which has been to my detriment,” Root told reporters in responding to a question about his failure to regularly turn half-centuries into three figures.
“So I tried to get it out of my mind and just get into one-on-one contests with each bowler and choose the right shots.
“My shot selection was good today, I managed to pick the right ball the majority of the time. It is about doing that more often.”
Root has made a half-century on 67 occasions in Tests, and converted 18 of those into hundreds.
He conceded at being frustrated that he has not managed it more often, but now has a fourth double-ton in his sights.
“I have been desperate to convert the 50s into big scores, but when I do get a 100 I generally make it count,” Root said. “It felt like a long time coming but the aim now is to try and make this one count and drive the first innings [total] as big as we can to bat once in this game.”
SRI LANKA (1st Innings) 135 (D.M. Bess 5-30, S.C.J. Broad 3-20).
ENGLAND (1st Innings, overnight 127-2):
Z. Crawley c Hasaranga b Embuldeniya 9
D.P. Sibley c Thirimanne b Embuldeniya 4
J.M. Bairstow c Mendis b Embuldeniya 47
J.E. Root not out 168
D.W. Lawrence c Mendis b D. Perera 73
J.C. Buttler not out 7
EXTRAS (B-7, NB-5) 12
TOTAL (for four wkts, 94 overs) 320
FALL OF WKTS: 1-10, 2-17, 3-131, 4-304.
TO BAT: S.M. Curran, D.M. Bess, M.J. Leach, M.A. Wood, S.C.J. Broad.
BOWLING (to-date): Embuldeniya 38-4-131-3 (1nb); Fernando 8-0-21-0; Hasaranga 15-1-63-0 (2nb); M.K.D. Perera 28-2-82-1 (2nb);. Shanaka 5-1-16-0.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2021