Root retains bright outlook despite 'disappointing' draw in Southampton

By Sports Desk August 17, 2020

Captains Joe Root and Azhar Ali were both able to draw positives from the drawn second Test between England and Pakistan, a match which was ruined by stoppages due to bad light and rain.

Only 134.3 overs of play were possible across the five days in Southampton, meaning England remain 1-0 up with a game to play in the three-match series.

After Pakistan were eventually bowled out for 236 in their first innings, England reached 110-4 before declaring on a final day that did not start until the afternoon, allowing an early finish to proceedings.

Root admitted it was "disappointing" that the conditions did not allow for an intriguing contest to play out, as well as suggesting a move to start play earlier in England to make up issues with the light.

"We were really excited about this week, a new challenge for us, and it's disappointing not to get in as much cricket as we'd have liked - but nice to be stood here still 1-0 up in the series," he said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

"Potentially, in England, we may be able to start half an hour earlier - if we lose time - I think you want to protect the crux of Test cricket as much as you can, in terms of the ball, but it is something to look at it I suppose.

"But I do think it has been a week of strange circumstances. It's not very often that you see bad light play such a part over a five-day game. Everyone has coped with it as best they can."

Zak Crawley's half-century was a highlight of Monday's limited action, the right-handed batsman marking his return to the XI with 54 from 99 balls.

On the performance of Crawley, who replaced the absent Ben Stokes in the team, Root said: "I thought he played excellently today.

"I spoke to the batting group before we started play today about making sure that we were very professional in how we approached this session - and for what is a very young top order, in particular, it was a great experience for us."

Opposite number Azhar was pleased with the way his team fought hard with the bat to post a competitive total in what were bowler-friendly conditions.

The tourists must now win the final match, which gets under way at the same venue on Friday, if they are to draw level, but there were promising signs for their skipper in what little action unfolded at the Rose Bowl.

"It has been frustrating for both teams. The game was set quite nicely, with conditions good for bowling throughout - the total we got, we thought would be very competitive but, unfortunately, the weather was the winner in the end," he said.

"I'm proud of them [the batsmen]. We spoke before the game started that we are taking the challenge of batting first. Whoever went in fought really hard; the England bowling attack is a brilliant attack, with the experience of Broad and Anderson. The guys stuck to the task."

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  • Root finds his rhythm again as England captain reaches major milestone Root finds his rhythm again as England captain reaches major milestone

    Joe Root revealed how an in-depth review of his own technique - plus the chance to watch some of his peers in action - helped him start a busy 2021 in fine style. 

    England's Test captain had failed to reach three figures in the format during the previous year, yet he put that lean spell behind him to deliver a double hundred in the series opener against Sri Lanka. 

    The Yorkshireman made 228 - the second highest Test score recorded by an England player in Asia - to help his team seize control of the first Test in Galle, though the home side hit back when left to deal with a first-innings deficit of 286. 

    While half-centuries from Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne, who ended day three on 76 not out, held up the tourists' push for victory, Sri Lanka still have plenty to do with the bat. 

    For Root, though, the hard work has already paid off, as he explained the key was finding the right rhythm again at the crease. 

    "I've changed quite a few things, to be honest," Root told the host broadcasters in Sri Lanka at the conclusion of play on day three.  

    "I've tried to get a bit more rhythm back into my batting, just trying to find triggers and things I can do when the bowler is running in, or at the end of his mark, which might just give me a sort of rhythm to things.  

    "It looks a bit different to previously, but it feels really good."

    Root has now managed four Test double centuries - only Wally Hammond and Alastair Cook have managed more for England - while his 321-ball knock in Galle saw him pass a notable personal milestone. 

    The 30-year-old became the seventh England batsman to reach 8,000 Test runs; he could rise several spots on the all-time list during the coming months too, as a hectic schedule provides plenty of opportunities to add to his career tally. 

    After completing their two-Test trip to Sri Lanka, England have home and away series against India to come, while the end of 2021 sees an Ashes tour to Australia. 

    The hectic schedule comes after 2020 was disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, though Root made use of his time by analysing not just his own game but also the methods used by other players, including New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, now ranked as the best Test batsman in the world. 

    "There was so much time to look back at things and watch other cricket from around the world, some of the best players," Root said about the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis. 

    "Kane at the minute is playing unbelievably well, so [I was] watching him and how he goes about things. You've got to learn off your peers - I think it's important to do that - and try and advance your game as much as possible.  

    "We've got some fantastic coaches as well. [I'm] Trying to tap into the likes of Jacques Kallis, Paul Collingwood and Graham Thorpe on a regular basis. 

    "I'm very fortunate to have those guys to learn from and work with."

  • Rohit Sharma: No regrets over dismissal Rohit Sharma: No regrets over dismissal

    India batsman Rohit Sharma insisted he had no regrets over the shot he played for what could prove to be a key dismissal in the fourth Test against Australia. 

    The tourists closed day two on 62-2 in reply to Australia's 369 all out at the Gabba. 

    Opener Rohit had moved to 44 before he tried to attack Nathan Lyon (1-10) and was caught out by a running Mitchell Starc. 

    India only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy but their task was made more difficult by losing Rohit, who twice made starts - scoring 26 and 52 – without pressing on during the draw in Sydney. 

    "I was actually trying to pierce the long-on and that deep square-leg fielder, but it didn't connect the way I would have loved to," said the 33-year-old. 

    "Pretty simple. It was something I won't regret. It is something I like to do.  

    "I like to put the pressure on the bowler once I am in, and that is my role in the team. To make sure I keep putting that pressure on the bowlers because we have seen throughout the series how run-scoring has been difficult for both the teams. 

    "Someone needs to put his hand up and think about how we can put the pressure back on the bowlers and while doing that there are chances you will make a mistake. 

    "You should be ready to accept that. I am ready to accept that because it was a plan. It was something that we always planned."

    Rohit added: "I actually have no regrets playing that shot. It is something I like to do.  

    "Just that Nathan Lyon - we all know he is a smart bowler - bowled into me, which made it difficult for me to get some elevation. 

    "It is not coming out of nowhere. It is a shot that I play. And I have played it very well in the past. It is something that I really back myself to do all the time. That is the kind of role I play in this team.  

    "Yes, when it looks like that, it looks bad, but that is something I don't think too much into." 

    Sunil Gavaskar was among the former players to criticise the shot selection from Rohit, who is opening the batting in Test cricket for the first time away from home during this series. 

    "I have opened for India in limited overs for a long time and it is time for me to test myself in this longer format as well," added Rohit. 

    "The team has shown confidence in my ability at the top. Just that I have to do what the team expects me to do.  

    "Not to worry about what happens anywhere else and what people talk about me. The team expects me to play a certain role at the top of the order, and I will try to do that as much as I can." 

    Only 54.2 overs were bowled due to rain on day two. Cheteshwar Pujara (8) and Ajinkya Rahane (2) were unbeaten when stumps were called, with India 307 runs adrift.

  • Root posts double hundred before Sri Lanka find Galle spark Root posts double hundred before Sri Lanka find Galle spark

    Joe Root posted his highest score as captain of England before Sri Lanka mustered some overdue resistance to frustrate the tourists on day three of the first Test in Galle.

    Skipper Root progressed from his overnight 168 not out to make 228 in England's 421 all out, which gave them a 286-run first innings lead after Sri Lanka's pitiful 135 total.

    Only once before has Root bettered that score for England, when he made 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford five years ago.

    On that occasion, England swept to a 330-run victory, and they may yet win this clash with Sri Lanka by a comfortable margin, but they found the going difficult for large parts of Saturday.

    The hosts reached stumps on 156-2 to trim their deficit to 130 runs and, while England need not panic, they will hope to find more penetration with their bowling on Sunday.

    England rattled on from 320-4 at the start of play until their final six wickets fell for 49 runs.

    Asitha Fernando triggered that slump with the new ball when he had Jos Buttler caught behind for 30 and bowled Sam Curran next delivery.

    Moments after Root brought up his fourth Test double century with a boundary through midwicket, he and Dom Bess got in a muddle that saw the junior partner run out without scoring.

    Veteran off-spinner Dilruwan Perera (4-109) prised out Jack Leach and Mark Wood, before Stuart Broad, batting at 11, found the ropes from successive balls.

    Root understandably looked to hit out but a heave at Perera meant a Test best would prove beyond him, the captain caught just inside the deep midwicket boundary.

    Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne continued the Sri Lanka fightback as they put on 101 for the first wicket, before the former fell for 62, slashing at a wide delivery from Curran and finding Leach at third man.

    Sri Lanka kept plugging away, Kusal Mendis avoiding what would have been a fifth successive duck before he fell for 15 in the closing moments of the day, Leach finding some turn and drawing a faint edge through to Buttler.

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