JOE Root’s maiden Test double-century underpinned England’s highest total against Sri Lanka, but the hosts soon discovered there is unlikely to be any fast track to victory at Lord’s.
Root added another 98 runs on day two of the first Investec Test to finish 200 not out as England posted 575 for nine declared, improving on their 551 for six against these opponents here eight years ago.
But after Sri Lanka replied with 140 for one at stumps, Kaushal Silva making an unbeaten 62 on a pitch offering little encouragement to any bowlers yet, England appeared to be engaged in a long haul to consolidate their advantage.
Root’s 298-ball innings lasted almost eight-and-a-half hours, contained 16 fours and came on the same ground as his previous-best 180 against Australia last year. He first took guard at 74 for three, with England still seeking a foothold at the start of their new Test era after last winter’s Ashes whitewash, and went on to share four stands in excess of 50.
The highest was for the sixth wicket with Matt Prior (86), which ended on 171 after a change of tactics from the Sri Lankans on another sunny morning.
Root was subsequently joined by free-scoring trio Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad and Liam Plunkett, then finally James Anderson in an unbroken last-wicket partnership which closed only when the 23-year-old Yorkshireman paddle-swept Rangana Herath for the two runs he still needed for his 200. Shaminda Eranga had bounced out Prior and Jordan as England nonetheless passed the Test benchmark of 400 – something which had proved beyond them since March 2013 in Wellington.
Prior believes England were unlucky not to pick up a second Sri Lankan wicket as the familiar problem of low catches returned on day two of the Test.
Silva might have been the second wicket to fall when he nicked Broad to Prior. The wicketkeeper was certain he had taken a clean catch in front of his body but slow-motion replays left enough doubt for the verdict not to be given.
Asked about the incident, Prior said: “You saw my reaction, I had no doubt about the catch. I thought it carried. I thought I got my hand, certainly my finger, under the ball. There’s a rubber tip on keeping gloves and you can feel when it hits that. I’ve gone forward at the ball and certainly thought it carried but it’s always tricky when it goes upstairs with the camera angles.”
Prior also explained the change of heart out in the middle that helped him answer critics with a fine counter-attacking innings. Having suffered a chronic loss of form and then been dropped during the Ashes, he was close to falling lbw for a second-ball duck. Having survived that, he then benefitted from a more carefree approach.
“Certainly after my second ball I’d have taken it ,” he added. “For a year or so I’ve not had things go my way. I was watching [for the umpire’s decision] and I looked at Joe Root and said ‘things are changing – I’m back’. In a lot of ways, that triggered me off again. I’ve always been an attacking player, if I get out, so be it.”