Cricket: England in good shape for a hectic year

Cricket: England in good shape for a hectic year

England have started a packed year of international cricket with a two-Test series against Sri Lanka, said Mike Atherton in The Times. And in the first Test at Galle, which ended on Monday, Joe Root’s men ran out comfortable winners. With a double century from Root (his fourth in Test cricket), and five-wicket hauls for spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach, this was a performance that “augurs well for the year ahead”. The match was effectively decided on day one, when the hosts suffered a “remarkably callow” batting collapse and were skittled out for just 135, said Ali Martin in The Guardian. England responded with a hefty 421, and though Sri Lanka fought back admirably in their second innings – posting 359 – that still left England needing a mere 74 for victory, which they duly knocked off with seven wickets to spare.

Root in particular will derive great satisfaction from this win, said Nick Hoult in The Daily Telegraph. Not only did he spearhead it with his majestic 228 – just the fifth time an English batsman has scored a double hundred in Asia – but he also displayed his increasing effectiveness as captain. Early on in his tenure, white ball cricket remained England’s focus, and Root lacked the authority to “put his stamp on the Test side”. But since Chris Silverwood succeeded Trevor Bayliss as head coach in 2019, fiveday cricket has become more of a priority – a shift evident in the side’s impressive recent form. England have now won their last four away Tests – the first time this has happened since the mid- 1950s – and Root is unbeaten in nine Tests. Aged just 30, he has 24 wins to his name as skipper – just two behind Michael Vaughan, England’s most victorious Test captain.

Yet what may prove the defining test of Root’s captaincy is likely to come in the months ahead, said Paul Newman in the Daily Mail. From Sri Lanka, England travel straight to India for a four- Test series. They then face a return series against India in the summer, before ending the year with the “holy grail of the Ashes”. And impressive as England were in Galle, there remain ongoing worries – not least the poor form of openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley. But don’t forget, said Tim Wigmore in The Daily Telegraph, that England were missing several of their best players. Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer have been rested for the Sri Lankan leg of the current tour; Ollie Pope is recovering from a shoulder injury; Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali have had to self-isolate. With the expected return of all these players next month, England will face some “knotty selection dilemmas” in India – a most welcome problem for them to have.

 

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