Sri Lanka v England: Joe Root says tourists on ‘upward curve’ after Galle win

Dan Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow celebrate England's seven-wicket win
Dan Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow needed only 9.2 overs to secure victory on the final morning

England are on “an upward curve” after their seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first Test, says captain Joe Root.

England are now unbeaten in six Tests – nine under Root – and have won four consecutive Tests away from home for the first time since 1957.

Despite slipping to 14-3 on day four, they completed a comfortable victory 35 minutes into the final day in Galle.

“We’re doing a lot of good things and it is a great place to be,” said Root.

Root, who was appointed skipper in 2017, led England to a 3-0 series clean sweep in Sri Lanka the following year.

England have won seven of their past nine Tests under his leadership, and their only defeat in the past year was against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl when Ben Stokes deputised, with Root absent for the birth of his second child.

Root, man of the match for his 228 in the first innings in Galle, said: “We aren’t the finished article; we have a long way to go.

“We are making little errors but we are getting better. That is seen by the results we are having.

“We know there are bigger challenges ahead but we are going in the right direction. You can’t ask any more.”

England’s players had to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Sri Lanka, and had only one day of match practice before the series opener.

Their win was built around a first-innings lead of 286. They passed 400 in the first innings for the sixth time in 12 Tests, having failed to do so in their previous 23.

Off-spinner Dom Bess returned match figures of 8-130 and slow left-armer Jack Leach – playing his first Test since November 2019 – claimed 6-177.

Sri Lanka, bowled out for 135 on day one, responded with 359 at the second attempt, and it needed an unbroken stand of 62 between Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence to calm England’s nerves after their wobble on Sunday.

“It has not been the perfect performance – we are well aware of that,” Root said.

“But with the little lead-in to this tour and the little cricket our spinners have had, particular Jack Leach, for him to come out with five wickets is great achievement for him.”

The final Test gets under way at the same ground on Friday, before England fly to India for a tour that begins with four Tests.

“It will get more difficult in India,” former England captain Michael Vaughan told BBC Test Match Special.

“This is a poor Sri Lanka team; you have to put it into perspective. But the conditions and preparation were not in England’s favour.

“I don’t think they need to improve that much, just tinker a bit here and there.”

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