Joe Root’s England cricket team finally broke their overseas jinx by securing a 57-run win over Sri Lanka in the second Test in Pallekele on Sunday. The result gave England their first series win in Sri Lanka since 2001 and it was the first win in the sub-continent since 2012, having defeated India 2-1. The result was a magnificent effort from an England side who have performed well at home but have struggled to win overseas. Heading into the series, England had failed to win the Ashes in Australia and suffered a series loss to New Zealand for the first time since 1999. With this loss, Sri Lanka’s misery in 2018 continued and they will be hoping for some consolation in the third Test in Colombo.
The Pallekele Test showcased the depth in England’s new talent, with the likes of Sam Curran and Ben Foakes showing their mettle in tough conditions. However, in the fourth innings, they found a new hero in left-arm spinner Jack Leach as he picked up his maiden five-wicket haul to give the side the series.
Curran’s heroics set up Test
In a very competitive Test, Sam Curran’s blazing knock in the first innings provided England momentum. At 176/7, with a well-set Jos Buttler departing for 63, Curran, like he did in Edgbaston and Southampton against India, took the attack to the Sri Lankan bowlers. He smashed six sixes and a solitary boundary as they reached 290. In response, Roshen Silva’s 85, combined with fifties from Dimuth Karunaratne (63) and Dhananjaya de Silva (59) gave Sri Lanka a crucial 46-run lead. England’s spinners took nine wickets in the innings, with Adil Rashid and Leach taking three apiece.
Root and Foakes star
In the second innings, skipper Root led the England charge with a magnificent century and he showed his batsmen the application required on a challenging deck. However, Akila Dananjaya picked up wickets at regular intervals and at 219/7, Sri Lanka held the upper hand. However, Ben Foakes, who had performed brilliantly with a century on debut in Galle, showed his class yet again and his unbeaten 65 and his 82-run stand with Root for the eighth wicket gave England a target of 301 against the hosts.
In the fourth innings, Leach and Moeen Ali wreaked havoc and it took a courageous knock of 88 by former skipper Angelo Mathews to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt. When Mathews fell to Moeen, Niroshan Dickwella still gave the hosts a faint glimmer of hope heading into day five but Moeen found the outside edge and Sri Lanka’s last recognised batsman fell for 35.
Leach, who had done most of the damage on day 4 by getting rid of Kaushal Silva (4), Kushal Mendis (1) and de Silva (1), wrapped the innings up with a five-wicket haul as England finally broke their overseas rut in grand style.