Cricket Expert & Columnist
Joe Root's century in Kandy one of his best for England, says Mike Atherton
"There were a couple of periods where England got their batting absolutely spot on. They dominated without looking like they were going to lose wickets."
Last Updated: 16/11/18 7:39pm
Joe Root's speedy century on day three in Kandy was one of his best in Test cricket, says Michael Atherton.
Root scored 124 from just 146 balls as England recovered from 109-4 to reach 324-9 before bad light caused an early end to play, with the tourists leading Sri Lanka by 278 on a spinning pitch.
The England skipper's hundred was his 15th in total and second in three Tests, but just his second in Asia after his 124 against India in Rajkot in November 2016.
Asked by Ian Ward to rate Root's ton, Atherton said: "One of his best, I should think. He is such a good player that all of his Test hundreds are attractive to watch.
"But given of late that he has not been converting that many, given it is in Asia where he has only scored one other hundred on a very flat pitch in Rajkot, and given the situation of the game - without his hundred England would be struggling - it will make him feel that it was one of his best."
Root posted the highest score by an England captain in Sri Lanka, topping Nasser Hussain's 109 at Kandy in 2001, before he was the seventh batsman in the innings to be dismissed on the sweep.
Rory Burns (59) also bossed a rapid second-wicket stand of 73 with Keaton Jennings in the opening session while Ben Foakes (51no) scored key runs late in the day after Jos Buttler contributed 34.
"Root has championed England playing in a very aggressive manner," said Atherton.
"I don't think they got it right before lunch at Galle [on day one of the first Test]. He was too eager to score, too frenetic and partly responsible for that. But he prefers to be that side of it rather than on the defensive.
"He is saying to his team: 'We are going to continue to play this way'. Sri Lanka bowled two maidens all day, which is a measure of the pressure England put on the bowlers.
"There were a couple of periods today where England got their batting absolutely spot on.
"The first hour from Burns and Jennings - I don't think you can play better than that when the bowlers are fresh and it is difficult. They set the day up.
"Then there was the hour after lunch before Buttler got out. England dominated without looking like they were going to lose wickets."
On England's chances of securing a series-sealing victory, Atherton added: "They are in a great position - I think they would have snapped your hand off for that lead at the start of play.
"They ought to have enough and if their spinners can't defend 278 on there you would be disappointed, even though the pitch isn't a minefield."
Watch day four of the second Test between Sri Lanka and England from 4am, Saturday on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event.