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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Joe Root pleased to 'set an example' on how to bat in Sri Lanka as England in box seat of Pallekele Test

Tourists, 1-0 ahead in three-match series, end Day 3 action on 324-9 to lead Sri Lanka by 278 runs

England captain Joe Root scored the 15th century of his Test career against Sri Lanka in Pallekele on Friday. Reuters
England captain Joe Root scored the 15th century of his Test career against Sri Lanka in Pallekele on Friday. Reuters

Joe Root seized the moment with a perfectly-timed century in Kandy that put England in charge of an intriguing second Test against Sri Lanka.

Root made 124 in 146 balls as the tourists banished expectations of an embattled second innings to finish Day 3 with a sizeable lead of 278.

It was the captain's 15th Test century and fourth on foreign soil, with 10 fours and two sixes providing the enterprising anchor in England's 324-9.

To reach that score they had to commit full-bloodedly to their game plan, which hinged on positivity, purposeful running and a bloody-minded willingness to sweep and reverse sweep as often as possible on a spinning Pallekele pitch.

"It was a thoroughly enjoyable one today and obviously quite challenging on that surface," Root told Sky Sports.

"I think the most pleasing thing for me was I asked the guys to play in a certain manner when we come to this part of the world, and in these conditions you want to set the example and lead from the front and play in that manner yourself.

"So to come off as it has today that's really pleasing.

"We weren't worried about playing that way. You look at the group of players we've got, it suits most of the guy's natural games. You have to play to your advantage and we have certainly done that so far on this tour with the bat.

"We're not going to get it right all the time but we have given ourselves a really good chance in this game and if we bowl pretty well on this surface hopefully we will be able to create 10 chances."

Each of the first seven wickets to fall came from variations of the sweep stroke and there were six lbws but despite occasional moments of deja vu, there was an admirable quality to their collective commitment.

It is hard to argue an alternate approach would have left them in a stronger position than the one they closed on.

Root aside, England owed much to Rory Burns (59) and Ben Foakes (51 not out).

The former set the tone with a first half-century that belied his inexperience at this level, while his Surrey teammate added vital late runs that will provide his bowlers with a welcome comfort blanket on Day 4.

Resuming with a 46-run deficit to clear England lost nightwatchman Jack Leach in the second over of the day attempting a stroke far beyond his means.

What followed was a positively serene stand of 73 between Burns and Keaton Jennings, though the latter would have breathed a sigh of relief at the curious decision not to test his frailties against seam.

Burns led the way, finding gaps, running astutely and accelerating with three boundaries in nine balls when the opportunity arose. In place of the anticipated crawl he was off at a canter, with the arrears wiped out inside 12 overs.

England were in front by 31 when Jennings' favourite stroke let him down, edging a reverse sweep to slip via big diversion off his chest.

His was the first in a sequence of three wickets for 32 runs before lunch as Burns and Ben Stokes were both given out after mistiming sweeps.

Both men reviewed in vain but while Burns had a confident fifty to take back to the pavilion, Stokes was gone for a second-ball duck.

Starting the afternoon session four down with a fragile 85-run lead Root proceeded to make his move.

With 26 to his name already he added 50 at exactly a run-a-ball in the next hour, forcing opposite number Suranga Lakmal into some defensive field placings then ruthlessly punching holes in them.

His confidence peaked when he savaged a length ball from Dilruwan Perera, clattering it for six in outright denial of two boundary catchers.

Jos Buttler joined him in a stand of 74, England's best of the match, but paid the price for failing to bail out of a premeditated reverse sweep. Instead he chased the wrong ball and diverted it into his stumps.

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Read more:

Sri Lanka fight back to take lead against England on back of Roshen knock

'Getting close to 300 massive' for England in second Test, says Sam Curran

England have no issues about facing Sri Lanka's Dananjaya in second Test

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England's Rory Burns, left, was dismissed after scoring a superb half-century. AP Photo
England's Rory Burns, left, was dismissed after scoring a superb half-century. AP Photo

Root found himself two short of his hundred at tea but did not suffer for the wait, guiding the second ball of the evening's play to the third-man boundary. His celebration suggested he knew this was an innings of considerable import.

Root saw England past the 300 mark before he was the latest lbw victim, mis-timing a reverse sweep against Akila Dananjaya and struck in line with the stumps.

Dananjaya emerged with figures of 6-106, bowling Sam Curran for a golden duck and winning decisions against Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, but in among his wicket-taking deliveries he offered up plenty of cheap runs.

When bad light stopped play ahead of schedule, Foakes had just reached his half-century with a six, a potentially critical cameo that threatened to take Sri Lanka's chase from tricky to improbable.