Joe Root had the day of his dreams yesterday, and Abhijato Sensarma has been thinking about him overnight. “The numbers of the (relatively) young English skipper suggest he’s no longer the prolific batsman everyone assumed he would be at the start of his career.” True, though I would argue with “young” – he’s just turned 30. “But the returns from his captaincy decisions have been growing for a long time even now.” Go on… “Backing Buttler, rotating his seamers, yesterday’s innovative captaincy – he’s slowly on the rise of this gig’s learning curve. There remain a few off-putting moments, like his handling of Archer, but I feel the time shall soon come when he compensates for his diminishing numbers with excellent tactical fortitude. Ah, the India tour is either going to be majestic or an absolute disaster, isn’t it?” Ha.
Because he’s so boyish, Root tends to be treated as if he has just taken over. In fact he’s England’s fifth longest-serving captain, on 45 Tests, level with Nasser Hussain. He has got better as a tactician, from a low base. But he has got worse as a batsman, as England captains usually do, and I’m still not convinced that those missing runs are a price worth paying for middling leadership. He has it in him to be England’s best batsman for 50 years: I wish he would just get on and do that. But if he has a few more days like yesterday, and has them in India and Australia, and handles Archer as well as Eoin Morgan does, I’ll be delighted to be proved wrong.
If you’re in Britain and up early, you’re not alone. “Good morning Tim.” Good morning, George Browne. “For years I have been cursed to miss the start of play on overseas tours, but I am pleased to say that this is now a thing of the past. One year and ten days ago I became father to beautiful twins, Otis and Cassie (doesn’t Otis Browne sound like a Windies fast bowler?). These two now ensure that I am awake at ungodly hours to witness these key early overs. Hurrah for fatherhood… I think. Keep up the good work.” You too! But as this is The Guardian, can I just suggest that Cassie Browne also sounds like a Windies fast bowler?
Rain delays start
It’s raining. Not the forecast thunder, but a steady drizzle, just to make England feel at home.
Preamble: two simple tasks
Morning everyone. The pandemic has done funny things to us all. Some have grown their hair, others have applied to join the Stasi, and others still have become vulnerable to modest off-breaks purveyed by bouncy young Englishmen. After winning the toss on a turning pitch beneath Galle’s famous fort, the Sri Lankans collapsed like a sandcastle and handed Dom Bess a sensational five for 30, which even he admitted that he didn’t deserve. Stuart Broad’s three for 20 was, by common consent, a much better performance.
England wobbled too, but only briefly, before Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow showed how it’s done with an unbroken partnership of 110. For Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka’s stand-in captain, the task is simple: get rid of them both early on, and stop England’s lead reaching three figures. For Root, it’s even simpler: find 34 more runs to score a Test hundred for the first time in the 2020s. And then add some more, to pile up a lead of 200 and have a fair chance of an innings victory. It would not be unlike England to stage a collapse of their own. They can’t just carry on serenely from the whitewash of 2018, can they?
The weather forecast is mixed – steamy with a chance of thunder after tea. Play starts at 10am local time, 4.30am in the UK.