Rain allowed only 53 overs of play on Day 2 but they were enough to ensure that Sri Lanka will have a mountain to climb when they bat in the second innings. Joe Root’s hundred, an unbeaten 168, has further strengthened England’s position in the Test match - strengthened to 100 per cent according to Criclytics.
The England captain, Root added 102 runs to his overnight total with similar subtleties to his innings which he displayed on Day 1- precise footwork, constant chipping of strike & assured sweeps which basically means he continued his masterclass on countering spin bowling.
Such was the certainty in his feet movement that out of the 238 deliveries he faced from spin, 237 were played with pristine footwork - either on the front foot or the back foot. Only one delivery was met without any feet movement. He played 42 sweep shots in the innings, more than all other batsmen combined in this Test, reaping 66 runs off them. The false shot percentage has been as low as 5.1.
Sri Lankans did not help themselves much either. Instead of ceasing the flow of runs, they often erred in their line and length, only easing the cause of England. The 173-run stand between Root and Dan Lawrence was a prime example.
Sri Lanka removed Jonny Bairstow in the second over of the day. At this point, England were still 4 runs behind on the first innings score and it could have been a possible opening to greater things. However, they did not sustain any pressure on the debutant, Dan Lawrence. They let the butterflies in his stomach settle early, gifting him a full toss as his second delivery in Test cricket which Lawrence obliged to score his first boundary. He never looked back from there on.
Lawrence contributed 40 runs in the 75 runs of the fourth wicket stand in the morning session. The 23-year old swept, drove and cut the ball, cashing on every available run on his debut. Overall, his 173-run stand with Root came at a run-rate of 4 runs per over.
While Root completed his 18th Test hundred on the second ball after Lunch, and his second in Sri Lanka which is the most by an England batsman in the island country, Lawrence brought up a fine fifty in his first Test innings. Sri Lanka’s only chance to break the partnership was spilled by Kusal Mendis at gully. Mendis caught Jonny Bairstow in the morning session at the same position but unlike that catch, the outside edge of Lawrence’s, burst through his hands.
It required the new ball for Sri Lanka to earn a breakthrough. With extra bounce in play, Dilruwan Perera, operating from around the wicket, wrapped Lawrence on his gloves. Mendis made amends for the squandered chance earlier to take a fine catch. Lawrence departed for 73, coincidentally the same number of runs Root scored in his maiden Test innings, back in 2012.
The new ball induced a higher false-shot percentage. It even produced an inside-edge of Root’s bat from Perera but the ball popped up in no-man’ land. He, however, never stopped sweeping. The heat of an undesirable combination of his sweeps and the harder ball was felt by Mendis at short-leg. He was hit several times and ultimately came off the field after copping three blows in quick succession.
Root and Jos Buttler (unbeaten on 7) carried England to a lead of 185 by Tea. The plan must have been to play another hour, post Tea, on merit before shifting gears. But rain and inclement weather, which did not allow any play post Tea, have put those plans on hold.
Photo courtesy: England Cricket on Twitter