England have made a fantastic start to 2021 and taken a 1-0 series lead against Sri Lanka.
During a hairy last hour on day 4, it seemed as though there could be trouble brewing but in the end, it was a comprehensive seven-wicket victory.
They’ll be looking to make it a fifth away Test win in a row in the final match of the series, which begins on Friday.
Ahead of that, we’ve outlined five talking points from the series opener…
Root back to his best ahead of action-packed 2021
There’s only one place to start, isn’t there?! The England skipper’s double century was majestic and proved that he was back to his best ahead of what looks set to be a busy year of Test cricket.
Root’s 228 – the highest score by an English player in Sri Lanka – was a masterclass in how to play on turning wickets in the Asian sub-continent. It didn’t just put his side in a match-winning position but will fill him with confidence ahead of the India tour and beyond.
He also captained the side well, often changing things at the right time to orchestrate a breakthrough despite the hosts’ resilient second innings display.
George Dobell’s ode to the England captain – who is now just two wins short of Michael Vaughan’s record of 26 – is certainly worth a read.
Buttler repays faith with the gloves
There was lots of talk ahead of the series about who should keep in Sri Lanka and India this winter, with Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, and Ben Foakes all in the Test squad but Root made it clear that Jos was his man.
Buttler was excellent with the gloves in the first Test, no easy feat on a pitch that was doing all sorts as the days wore on and certainly repaid his captain’s faith.
He even claimed his first Test stumping, a smart bit of work to remove Dilruwan Perera who looked like he was just getting going. Another positive sign at the start of the winter Test schedule.
Lawrence assured on debut
Despite being just 23, the Kent batsman has long been earmarked as the next man up for England and it was clear just why from his assured debut.
He made a fantastic 73 in the first innings, batting brilliantly in tandem with Root and showcasing his wide array of strokes as the tourists began to build their lead.
The second innings was a difficult experience completely. When he came in at 13-3 with Sri Lanka getting the ball to explode off the surface, England looked in a real spot of bother but alongside Bairstow, he navigated a difficult period and helped steer them to victory.
The composure he showed for a player on debut was outstanding. Lawrence looks to have the temperament for Test cricket and it’s fantastic to see a young batsman playing with such a smile on his face.
We can add him to England’s enviable list of young batting talent.
New year, same Stuart Broad
We don’t have to tell you just how good Broad was in 2020 (38 wickets at an average of 14.76) and it seems the newest member of the 500 club is set to continue that form this year.
In the first innings, he took vital top-order wickets – finishing with figures of 3-20 as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 135 – while in the second he was vital in helping to build pressure.
Forget about the wickets, his second innings figures of 17 overs, 11 maidens, and 14 runs at an economy rate of 0.82 are remarkable.
In conditions that have proven challenging in the past, he illustrated what a top-quality player he is and what a weapon he can be for Root this winter.
Strong start for the spinners
Starting a winter that includes six Tests in the Asian sub-continent with a victory and one that saw both your spinners take five-wicket hauls is about as good as it gets.
They were rusty at times and both admitted that they weren’t quite at their best but Dom Bess and Jack Leach have made a strong start to 2021.
Bess was ruthlessly effective, finishing with eight wickets in the match, while Leach’s spell before and after Tea on day 4 was sublime – and made all the more impressive given how little cricket he’s played over the past 12 months or so.
The first Test should have filled them both with confidence ahead of what could be a big winter.