Galle, Sri Lanka, Jan 18 – After a seven-wicket win, a double-century innings, and two five-wicket hauls for the bowlers, England captain Joe Root still feels his side “got away” with too many mistakes against Sri Lanka.
England won the first Test in Galle on Monday with Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence negotiating what Bairstow called a “tricky” finish after losing three quick wickets before the overnight close Sunday.
Bairstow, who cracked a four to pass the winning target, and Lawrence steadied the innings and scored the required 36 runs in less than 10 overs.
The crumbling pitch gave Sri Lanka’s spinners hopes of claiming more wickets, but Bairstow (35) and Lawrence (21) took England to 76-3 after resuming at 38-3.
Sri Lanka called a review on one Dilruwan Perera ball to Lawrence — who missed a reverse sweep — but the TV replay found the faintest edge before it hit his pads.
The win should have been a stroll after Sri Lanka collapsed to 135 in the first innings and England made 421 with a Joe Root double century. But the home side hit back with a determined 359 in their second innings before having England in trouble at 14-3 at one stage late Sunday.
“These run chases are always a little bit nervy,” said the captain, who hit 228 in the first innings when he also saw six England batsman fall in a single session, tarnishing the big total.
– ‘Little mistakes’ rankle –
He said the team’s lack of preparation before the match — stuck in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble — had been a handicap, but the five-wicket hauls by spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach were a “brilliant achievement”.
Bairstow’s role overcoming the general batting jitters in his first Test since 2019 was also a plus.
Root already has his thoughts on the second Test starting in Galle on Friday, and four tough Tests in India after that.
“There are things and mistakes in this game that we have probably got away with,” said Root. “But I am really proud of these guys.”
England have now won four away Tests in a row, their best performance since 1955-56. Root has 24 Test wins as a captain, two behind Michael Vaughan’s all-time record of 26 for England.
“We are not the finished article, we have a long way to go,” he added.
“If we can keep improving all the time, keep learning from the things and the little mistakes we made then we can keep getting better.”
Root said that Sri Lanka are a “very proud” side and England must expect a backlash in the second Test.
Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal is also looking for more of the attitude from the second innings, when Lahiru Thirimanne scored a stubborn 111.
Chandimal admitted his side gave away the game on the opening day.
“We were outplayed in the first innings with the bat and ball,” he said. “As a batting unit, we have to get a big total in the first innings. It cost us the game.”
If they could have added 70-80 more runs on Sunday, then Sri Lanka could have caused an upset.
“It could have been a different story,” he declared, adding the first-innings total would be crucial in the second Test.