Centurion Joe Root was glad to throw off the shackles of England’s miserable winter on day one of the first Investec Test against Sri Lanka.
Root finished 102 not out at Lord’s as the home side posted a strong 344 for five having been put in to bat on a green-tinged track by Angelo Mathews.
Root was one of many England players who flopped over the winter and ended the 5-0 Ashes whitewash out of the side.
But there was no sign of concern as he made his third Test ton, and second at Lord’s, with Matt Prior (76no) and Ian Bell (56) also in the runs.
“It was obviously a tough winter, not just on a personal front but as a team so it’s obviously pleasing,” Root said. “I enjoy playing here. You can’t beat the first Test of the summer at Lord’s and the atmosphere was fantastic. Hopefully me and Matty can kick on now and get towards 400 if not more.”
Prior, who was also axed Down Under, ended the day close to his attacking best but not before surviving an agonisingly close lbw appeal.
Runs will cool the calls for a younger man to take the wicketkeeping position and Root added: “I love batting with Matty. He’s a great bloke to have in the side and to play how he has is testament to his character and his quality as a player.”
The efforts of Root and Prior in an unbroken stand of 135, were badly-needed as England recovered from 22 for two thanks first to Bell and then Root’s alliances with Test debutant Moeen Ali and Prior, who avoided an lbw departure for what would have been a second-ball duck only because “umpire’s call” came to his rescue.
It was the early failures of both openers, captain Alastair Cook and debutant Sam Robson, which put the onus on England to dig themselves out of trouble.
A pitch tinged a suspicious shade of green persuaded Mathews to bowl first, despite sunny skies, and the new ball mostly swung rather than seamed for Nuwan Pradeep and Nuwan Kulasekara.
Cook cut the fourth delivery of the Test summer for four off Kulasekara. And Robson was under way second ball with a push to cover off the same bowler. But he then misjudged Pradeep’s swing down the slope from the nursery end and edged behind. Cook’s attempt to cut Kulasekara then resulted in an inside edge on to his stumps.
Gary Ballance and Bell, in respective new positions at three and four, fared well until Ballance edged an attempted off-drive from deep in his crease to become Pradeep’s second caught-behind victim.
Bell added 46 with Root, reannouncing himself in early afternoon by advancing to hit Rangana Herath for six over long off in the first over of the session.
A seventh boundary, cover-driven off Shaminda Eranga, took him to his 50 from 69 balls. But the bowler soon had his revenge when he hit Bell in front and then overturned Paul Reiffel’s not-out lbw verdict on review.
Moeen got his Test career under way when he clipped the seamer for four off his legs and then greeted the return of Herath by hitting him immediately over wide long-on for six.
Root missed no opportunities to rotate the strike and they combined for a partnership of 89 until Moeen tried another big hit at Herath and edged to slip.
Prior’s close shave came in the same over, Herath snaking the ball past the inside-edge of a forward lunge to hit the back leg – only for DRS to rule impact was not decisively in line with off-stump, and Reiffel was therefore vindicated this time.
Thereafter, Root and Prior’s progress was seamless.