Joe Root believes England will go into their series against India with “a huge amount of confidence” after completing victory in Sri Lanka.
England’s six-wicket win in Galle represented their fifth successive Test victory both overseas and in Asia. And while Root, England’s captain, admitted his side’s preparations for the India series were not ideal, he felt their experiences in Sri Lanka held them in “good stead” as they go into it.
India have not lost a Test series at home since England’s victorious campaign in 2012-13 – indeed, they have only lost once at home since the end of 2004 – and, despite a host of absences, recently completed a series victory in Australia. On England’s most recent visit in late 2016, Virat Kohli’s men exacted revenge for that previous loss with a 4-0 victory..
But Root feels the character England have shown in adversity and the experience they have gained means they “couldn’t be in a better place” to take on such a challenge.
“What we have got is a huge amount of confidence coming out of these two games,” Root said. “We’ve had to manage different situations and all of that will stand us in really good stead.
“Now we’ve got four very important games against arguably the best team in the world in their own conditions. We’ll have to play right at the top of our game to win out there. But we couldn’t be in a better place to go and challenge them.”
England overcame far-from-ideal preparation – including Moeen Ali’s pre-series Covid diagnosis and subsequent isolation, as well as rain during their intra-squad warm-up game – to prevail in Sri Lanka and Root knows they will have to do show similar “resilience” in India. They will arrive on Wednesday and spend six days in quarantine before they have just three days of training ahead of the first Test.
“It’s going to be strange,” Root admitted. “We’ve got to be quite realistic: we are going to have seven or eight days with no cricket now with six days in quarantine. Then we will have three very important days of preparation ahead of the series.
“We had a lot of things out of our favour [in Sri Lanka]. We lost the toss in both games and we managed to find a way in very difficult conditions with very little build-up to the series. In the past, we’ve been guilty of being slow starters, whether it be home or away. So for us to start as well as that was very pleasing, but also to keep growing as a team and improving throughout the two games is quite impressive.”
Although Root himself was England’s stand-out performer with two big hundreds and 426 runs in the series all told, a range of different players produced telling moments with bat and ball – including Stuart Broad and James Anderson with their incisive, economical seam bowling; the spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess who picked up 22 wickets between them despite rarely being at their best, and a pair of junior batsman, Dan Lawrence and Dom Sibley, with a crucial half-century in each Test.
“The most impressive thing this week was that, for a large proportion of the second Test, we were behind the game,” Root said. “For our seamers to be effective as they were on that wicket shows the improvement we have made in taking wickets in these conditions. We’ve struggled with that in the past.
“More than anything, it was impressive the way we dealt with pressure on the last day, both in the field and with the bat. For our spinners to restrict them to a total we could chase down was a brilliant effort.
“And then for our batters to stay as calm and as poised as they did and that partnership [of 75, between Sibley and Jos Buttler] towards the end was really impressive. It’s probably one of the hardest things to manage in this part of the world.”
But Root is realistic that India will be another set-up for his improving team, as they build towards the first Test in Chennai on February 5.
“Now the challenge is to replicate that over and over again as a team,” he said. “We have to look at this as a platform and not be happy with what we’ve achieved.
“We’ve got so far to go, still. We have a lot of young players who are learning all the time. We have to take as much experience from this series as we can and keep looking to build and improve.
“We’re going to need everyone to look to improve. We’re going to have different challenges, different surfaces, different situations to manage in India. So it is about reacting to that and having that same attitude, that same character and desire to go on and win like we have here.”
Root’s confidence was exceeded by that of Mickey Arthur. The Sri Lanka coach said England “can go to India with every chance of winning” having been especially impressed with their “wonderful” bowling attack. But he agreed the difference between the sides was player of the series, Root.
“I thought England have been really good,” Arthur said. “They’ve been very professional. They’ve some players in good form, their bowling attack is wonderful, their seam-bowling attack is great. We saw good signs for England with Dom Bess and Jack Leach and Root has batted at another level on this tour.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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