Root ton plants England on steady ground

Published : 12:01 am  November 17, 2018 | No comments so far |  | 


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By Shehan Daniel reporting from Pallekele 

Joe Root’s second century in the Asian subcontinent helped England consolidate their position in the second Test against Sri Lanka, at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium yesterday. 

When rain brought an early end to third day’s play, England were 324 for nine having built a lead of 278, already in tricky territory in terms of a target for the hosts, which will be properly defined only once Ben Foakes, unbeaten on 51, or James Anderson, on four, is dismissed when play resumes today. 

Spinner Akila Dananjaya produced career-best, albeit expensive, figures but that could prove to be nothing more than a footnote in this match if Root’s century turns out to the match winning contribution in the context of this Test. 
Whether this will be the last seen of Dananjaya for a while will depend on the veracity and scope of the suspicions about his bowling action, but his six wickets for 109 runs yesterday at least ensured there was a steady stream of wickets at one end. 

Root celebrated his 15th Test century with a leap and a fist pump, having taken an aggressive approach in building his innings, and adding to the only other century he has scored in Asia, against India in Rajkot two years ago. 
It may just prove to be one of his most important centuries, if it results in his earning his first series win away from home as captain. 

His innings proved to be a masterclass in how to handle spin, an ability that seems to have eluded some of Sri Lanka’s batsmen, as he swept, drove and cut, all while using his feet well and rotating strike frequently. 
Root’s best work was arguably in the first hour after lunch, where both teams were just about on equal footing after Sri Lanka had taken two quick wickets, of Rory Burns and Ben Stokes in the space of five balls. 
He scored 50 of the 76 runs England piled on in that period of play, as the visitors’ separation from the hosts became more pronounced. 

Having struck three boundaries in his first 26 runs, he added another in the fourth over after the break when he swept Malinda Pushpakumara for four, and then carved the same bowler for another, six overs later, to bring himself a run within a fifty. 

Root added two more boundaries and a six in that first over, and carried on the high tempo at which England started their innings, scoring at more than four and a half runs an over at that point.  

His next 24 runs came off 34 balls, as he reached his century with his eighth boundary, ultimately becoming Dananjaya’s fourth victim of the innings, on 124. 

England had stuck to a trusted formula of relying on all forms of sweep shots to pile up runs, but the shot also brought the downfall, with seven wickets lost to some variation of the sweep. 

A 74-run fourth-wicket partnership between Root and Jos Buttler had stymied Sri Lanka’s progress after lunch, before Dananjaya bowled Buttler. 

Dananjaya returned to break a Root-Moeen Ali partnership 36 runs later, before breaking England’s most productive partnership of 82 between Root and Foakes. 

He removed Sam Curran on the next ball, and then had Adil Rashid out leg before wicket.