Sri Lanka 0-2 England: We pick out five talking points from England's series win in Galle
Joe Root's men become the first England side to register five consecutive away wins in Test cricket for the first time since 1914; they now travel to face India in a four-match series, with the opening Test in Chennai getting underway from February 5
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 28/01/21 11:24am
England kicked off a blockbuster year of Test match cricket with a convincing 2-0 series win in Sri Lanka, as Joe Root maintained his 100 per cent record as captain in Asia.
Sri Lanka were left to rue disastrous batting displays in each Test as England followed up a comprehensive seven-wicket win in Galle by wrapping up the series inside four days at the same venue a week later.
Despite the best efforts of Angelo Mathews and the brilliant Lasith Embuldeniya, England enjoyed the perfect preparation for next month's trip to India with a fourth straight series win, and we have picked out the key talking points from their latest subcontinent success...
- Joe Root: England in great place to challenge India
- England clinch series win after Sri Lanka collapse
Relentless Root back to his best
Ahead of what promises to be a defining year in the career of Joe Root, England's Test captain was back to his blistering best to lead his side to a second consecutive series sweep in Sri Lanka.
Prior to a ball being bowled in Galle, Root was in the midst of a barren spell by his prolific standards, having failed to reach three figures in 15 innings - a record dating back to November 2019.
Nevertheless, the 30-year-old was in a class of his own on the subcontinent, following up a magnificent double hundred in the first Test with an inspired knock of 186 in the second.
Root amassed 426 runs in total at an average of 106.5, and his exploits saw him overtake the trio of Sir Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower to become England's fourth highest run-scorer in Test cricket.
Root averages 69.70 against spin bowling in the Test arena and he produced a masterclass in concentration, technique and decision-making in Galle, attributes he and his side will require in abundance against a star-studded Indian line-up.
Broad and Anderson defy the odds
Touring Sri Lanka as a pace bowler is notoriously a thankless task, but England's two most prolific wicket-takers continue to confound history.
England's well-documented rotation policy has seen Stuart Broad and James Anderson share a place in the starting XI in Sri Lanka, although the results were emphatic, with both men surpassing themselves.
Broad got the nod for the opening Test and registered figures of 3-20 in the first innings - his career-best in Sri Lanka - only for Anderson to claim 6-40 from 29 overs a week later, as he became the oldest seam bowler to snare a five-wicket haul on the subcontinent.
The combined figures from England's senior statesmen make for astonishing reading - 9-80 from 57 overs. Not only were they able to penetrate in unforgiving conditions, they bowled with remarkable discipline to stifle Sri Lanka's mercurial batting line-up.
As Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes return to the fold in India, Root has a wealth of pace options at his disposal, yet few can offer the control mustered by England's seam maestros.
Brilliant Buttler impresses in all departments
During the last 12 months, Jos Buttler's status in England's Test side has been a consistent source of conjecture. Many questioned whether one of the world's best white-ball batsmen could prosper in the five-day format.
Buttler came into the series fresh from a career-best 152 in his previous Test innings against Pakistan, and following a terrific all-round display in Sri Lanka, his place in England's red-ball side has never looked more assured.
Only Root and Bairstow scored more runs for England across the series than Buttler, who followed up his 18th half-century in the second Test with an unbeaten 46 - his trademark flair complemented by maturity and poise.
However, the 30-year-old also received plenty of plaudits for his performance with the gloves. He was almost flawless in testing conditions - claiming nine catches and registering his first Test stumping, despite the biting turn and bounce on offer.
Buttler will return home following the first Test in Chennai as England continue their policy of rotating multi-format players, although his success in Sri Lanka reaffirms he is the man to dislodge behind the stumps.
- Nasser Hussain: Should England rethink Jonny Bairstow decision?
- Can England's spinners step up in India?
Learning curve for England's openers
In the absence of Rory Burns, Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley formed a new-look opening partnership for England, and it proved to be a tumultuous initiation for the inexperienced duo.
Sibley and Crawley have both demonstrated their pedigree on the international stage - though there is little that can prepare a batsman for coming up against spin with the new ball - a common occurrence in Sri Lanka.
Crawley succumbed to emerging left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya in all four innings and made just 35 runs in the process, while Embuldeniya also claimed the scalp of Sibley in three innings, with the Warwickshire opener scoring just six runs during that spell.
Sibley was redeemed by an unbeaten 56 in England's second Test run-chase, and while he enjoyed some good fortune, his tenacious knock was testament to his mental fortitude, having conceded post-match he was in a 'dark place' in the days prior.
Despite the absence of Ravindra Jadeja through injury, Ravichandran Ashwin will provide another formidable challenge for England's top order in India. Burns is expected to return and open the batting, but irrespective of personnel, it will pose a huge test of the tourists' credentials.
Questions remain over England's spin duo
Jack Leach and Dom Bess snared 22 wickets as a partnership as England added another away series win to their growing résumé, although the statistics did not necessarily tell the entire story.
For context, England's three-pronged spin attack of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Leach were integral to their 3-0 success in 2018, taking 48 wickets as a trio, albeit having played a game more.
The scrutiny surrounding Bess and Leach may appear unwarranted, particularly as both claimed five-wicket hauls in the opening Test, although they were the recipients of some profligate Sri Lankan batting, especially in the case of Bess.
The former Somerset team-mates came under the microscope after going wicketless in the first innings of the second Test, although they made amends with four apiece on day four, courtesy of another shambolic batting display from the hosts.
Ali could feature in India having tested positive for Covid-19 in Sri Lanka, but for Leach and Bess, the acid test is on the horizon. India's strength in depth in the batting department is unrivalled, and given their proficiency against spin bowling, they will gratefully capitalise on any vulnerability.