Root: India win adds to excitement, but focus on Sri Lanka

Root looking forward to challenge of facing “confident” India – but focused on wrapping up series win over Sri Lanka first; England captain urges batsmen to score big first-innings runs once again; All-rounder Moeen Ali to miss second Test, live on Sky Sports from Friday

Last Updated: 21/01/21 9:47am

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England Test captain Joe Root says India’s series win in Australia was a ‘great advert for the game’ after the tourists inflicted Australia’s first defeat at the Gabba since 1988.
England Test captain Joe Root says India’s series win in Australia was a ‘great advert for the game’ after the tourists inflicted Australia’s first defeat at the Gabba since 1988.

England captain Joe Root says India’s stunning win in Australia has made his team’s four-match series against Virat Kohli’s side this winter even more exciting.

An injury-hit India, who were missing captain Kohli due to paternity leave and had been skittled for only 36 in the first Test in Adelaide, completed a 2-1 series success in Australia on Monday after inflicting the hosts’ first defeat at The Gabba in Brisbane since 1988.

Root – who called the series a “great advert” for Test cricket – and his men will face India from February 5, looking to become the first touring team since England in 2012 to beat Kohli’s side in a Test series on their own turf.

However, Root’s focus for now remains on steering his team to a series win in Sri Lanka, with the tourists 1-0 up with one match to play, in Galle from Friday, after winning the opener by seven wickets.

Joe Root and Virat Kohli will lock horns when England face India in a four-Test series from February
Joe Root and Virat Kohli will lock horns when England face India in a four-Test series from February

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Off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali will miss out for England once again having only recently left quarantine on Saturday after testing positive for coronavirus upon arrival in Sri Lanka.

On India’s victory over Australia, Root said: “It was a fantastic series to watch from start to finish with some brilliant cricket played.

“India showed great fight, character and resilience and depth in their squad for guys to come in and perform the way they did. As a cricket fan watching Test cricket it was a great advert for the game and for us going out to India it makes that tour even more exciting now.

“I expect India to be full of confidence. They are a very good team and know how to get the best out of their conditions. We are going to have to be at our absolute best but that is an exciting prospect for us.

India celebrate their series-sealing victory over Australia at The Gabba
India celebrate their series-sealing victory over Australia at The Gabba

“We will be going there to fully expect to win that series – but we have a lot of hard work to do before we get there [with the second Test against Sri Lanka].”

England razed Sri Lanka for 135 on day one of the first Test in Galle before Root’s double hundred and a debut half-century for Dan Lawrence guided the tourists up to 421 and a lead of 286 after first innings.

Sri Lanka, though, rallied with a score of 359 in their second innings and had England in real trouble at 14-3 in their pursuit of 74 for victory before Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow ushered the visitors home early on day five.

Root’s men only need to avoid defeat in Galle this week to complete back-to-back Test series wins in Sri Lanka, having swept the hosts 3-0 in 2018.

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Highlights from day five of the first Test as England knocked off the final 36 runs required to beat Sri Lanka
Highlights from day five of the first Test as England knocked off the final 36 runs required to beat Sri Lanka

The captain added: “We know Sri Lanka are a proud team with a great record at this ground. They have some very talented players and will be wanting to come back hard at us.

“The way that they played with the bat in the second innings was very different to the first and showed that in those conditions, they are a very hard side to break down. We know that this isn’t going to be an easy game.

“We will have to play smart cricket again. We can’t be happy with what we have achieved so far. We have got to look to go one further and keep getting better.

Dan Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow were all smiles after steering England to victory in the first Test
Dan Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow were all smiles after steering England to victory in the first Test

“We are very capable of doing that. We are full of confidence and playing some good stuff. I expect us to back up that performance if not better it. That is our goal.

“The message will be make sure we score big first-innings runs, make big partnerships and get ourselves ahead in the Test match so that we can try and dictate terms from then on.

“I’m really proud to see the progress that we’ve made in that. It would be really good to see it continue throughout this winter and make it a regular feat for us in this format.

“It’s no secret that consistency comes from those big first-innings runs. It sets the game up for you and gives your bowlers time and the opportunity to build pressure.

“It’s what the best teams right at the top of world cricket do over and over again, what the best teams in the history of the game have always done.

They are two guys who are eager to learn and get better, their attitudes are brilliant. It would be quite harsh to look into one Test match [after low scores] and make a shotgun decision on them in these conditions. They have found themselves in real pressure situations in their short careers and come out the other side. I expect a similar outcome this week.

Joe Root on openers Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley

“If we want to be consistent and serious about being the best team in the world, then it is something we are going to have to replicate over and over again.”

Lawrence’s impressive debut and Bairstow’s successful return after a year out of the Test arena has added to England’s batting depth, which will be boosted further in India by the expected returns of Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope and Rory Burns.

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Joe Root says the return of influential pair Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the forthcoming India series will provide a boost to England.
Joe Root says the return of influential pair Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the forthcoming India series will provide a boost to England.

Stokes was rested for the Sri Lanka series and Burns missed the matches due to his wife expecting the birth of their first child, while Pope is close to fully overcoming a shoulder injury he sustained in a Test at home to Pakistan last summer.

Root said: “That is a really exciting place for us to be in. Competition for places is always something that stands out in improving teams.

“It’s great to have so many guys waiting to get better, really taking their opportunities and making the most of learning from these experiences. It will grow us as a team and definitely make our squad depth better.

Ben Stokes is expected to return for England in their Test series in India
Ben Stokes is expected to return for England in their Test series in India

“It would be very easy to get ahead of ourselves and start thinking we are something we’re not. We have to make sure we keep looking to get better – that is the most important thing.

“We have to become more rounded cricketers and become better wherever we play in the world and on whatever surfaces.”

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England captain Joe Root hopes spin pair Dom Bess and Jack Leach impress again in the second Test against Sri Lanka in the continued absence of Moeen Ali.
England captain Joe Root hopes spin pair Dom Bess and Jack Leach impress again in the second Test against Sri Lanka in the continued absence of Moeen Ali.

England are on a run of four away Test match wins in a row with victory over Sri Lanka earlier this week following three consecutive wins in South Africa last winter.

There have been no draws in the last 27 Test matches to be held in Sri Lanka with the previous stalemate coming when the hosts played South Africa in Colombo in July 2014.

Watch the second and final Test between Sri Lanka and England live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 4am on Friday.

Source : Sky Sports