England never stop believing after Stokes' Ashes heroics – Root

By Sports Desk August 08, 2020

Joe Root revealed how Ben Stokes' Ashes heroics at Headingley had England always thinking they could defy the odds and beat Pakistan in a thrilling first Test.

The hosts claimed the series opener in Manchester as they chased down a target of 277 on a gripping fourth day's play, despite at one stage slipping to 117-5 in their second innings.

Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes combined to put on a pivotal stand of 139 for the sixth wicket, making 75 and 84 not out respectively as England squeezed home with three wickets to spare.

Stokes contributed just nine on this occasion but his stunning knock against Australia in 2019, when he made 135 not out in a famous one-wicket win, always offers inspiration to his team-mates, according to Root.

"We knew it was going to take something special," England's captain told Sky Sports in the post-match presentation ceremony.

"I think, after last summer, it's very hard to stop believing. We know that anything is possible. 

"One thing you can never doubt about our dressing room is the character, the way that we always continue to keep believing and never give up. That's a real strong trait of ours. 

"I'm really proud and please that it has shone through today and the guys have gone on to get us 1-0 up."

England's victory puts them 1-0 up in the three-match series, a rare situation for Root and his players.

They have made a habit of losing the opener in recent history, including against West Indies on home soil earlier this year, but now have a lead to defend as the teams head to Southampton.

"I think the most important thing is we back it up again now. It's been frustrating in many ways [losing the opening game], but ultimately we've got to keep looking forward – and keep learning," Root said.

"There are definitely things we can take from this game and improve on. But I couldn't be more proud of the character we've shown, the way we approached the day and the clarity in which the way the guys played.

"On a very tough surface, to score that many runs, shows the ability of the group."

He added: "I couldn't be more proud of the lads. I thought that the way we approached the day was outstanding, and that partnership between Woaksey and Jos was magnificent.

"They were very clever about how they went about it, the way they constructed it."

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    A collapse to 135 all out in their first innings was the main cause of Sri Lanka's defeat in last week's first game of the two-match rubber and they found themselves in early strife once more in Galle.

    James Anderson (3-24) returned to lead the England attack and removed Kusal Perera and Oshada Fernando, the latter for nought, to leave the hosts 7-2.

    But Mathews (107 not out) made the most of favourable batting conditions to lay the foundations for an imposing total, finding willing allies in Lahiru Thirimanne (43) and captain Dinesh Chandimal (52) and lead a recovery to 229-4 at stumps.

    England's attack toiled hard after Joe Root lost the toss but they caused problems early on, with Sam Curran having a huge lbw shout against Kusal in the second over before Anderson added to his 600 Test wickets.

    Recalled in place of long-time new ball partner Stuart Broad as England juggled their seam options with an eye on their forthcoming tour of India, Anderson persuaded Kusal into a ludicrously expansive hack that he edged to Root at slip.

    Oshada was recalled to the Sri Lanka side after four ducks in five innings for Kusal Mendis, only to suffer the same fate as he edged a lifting delivery onto his stumps.

    Thirimanne scored a century in the first Test, although his fine form was ultimately insufficient to repel his nemesis Anderson, who moved a ball beautifully away to encourage an edge behind and dismiss the opener for an eighth time in Tests.

    Sri Lanka were 76-3 shortly after lunch at that stage. Mathews' alliance with Chandimal was certainly timely and they were able to milk England spin due Jack Leach and Dom Bess with minimal risk.

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    The over after Anderson fumbled a run-out chance at mid-on, Wood had his reward - pinning Chandimal with an in-swinger the batsman's review showed was thundering into leg stump.

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    "I spoke at length to Jonny yesterday, as well as at Loughborough before the Sri Lankan tour," Smith said.

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    "It was great to see Jonny looking very focused and clear in Test cricket. He was given lots of visibility ahead of time that he would be likely to bat three, playing as a batsman," he said.

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    England squad for first two Tests against India: 

    Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.

    Reserves:

    James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.

  • England rest Bairstow, Curran and Wood for start of India series England rest Bairstow, Curran and Wood for start of India series

    Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood have not been included in the England squad for the opening two Tests against India.

    Batsman Bairstow, all-rounder Curran and paceman Wood have been rested and will fly home after the ongoing Test series in Sri Lanka along with quick Craig Overton.

    Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Rory Burns are back in the squad for a series that starts at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on February 5.

    Fast bowler Archer and all-rounder Stokes did not travel to Sri Lanka as they were given a break, while opening batsman Burns stayed at home for the birth of his first child.

    Batsman Ollie Pope will fly out to India and be added to a 16-man squad when he has fully recovered from a shoulder operation.

    The national selectors have also named six travelling reserves, three of which are spinners, for the series against an India side on a high from a dramatic 2-1 victory in Australia.

     

    England squad for first two Tests against India: 

    Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.

    Reserves:

    James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.

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