Joe Root couldn’t hide the enjoyment of his 15th Test century, and only second on the sub-continent, but said it will only be meaningful to him if England can win the Test and secure a series victory over Sri Lanka.
The England skipper played majestically for 124, forming the backbone of an as-yet unfinished second innings that sees them lead the hosts by 278 overnight.
But when asked about the joy of having played such a brilliant knock on a difficult, turning track, Root insisted that all such joy was conditional.
“It will be a very special one if we go on and win the game and this series,” he said. “Very special, very pleasing to be able to make a big contribution on that pitch.”
Root and England took the game to Sri Lanka even as wickets fell, paddle-sweeping, slog-sweeping and reverse-sweeping their way to quick runs and keeping Suranga Lakmal’s fielders on the move.
“We said we were going to play in a special manner in these conditions and I think the temptation with a deficit like that in the second innings is to play within your shell and be a little bit insular but the guys went out and really set the tone at the top of the order.
“It’s really pleasing to see inexperienced Test cricketers really set a benchmark for the rest of the group and they set up a really good platform for us to hopefully go on and stretch this lead a bit further and it should be a good chase on this pitch.
“When you make a statement like that you feel like you have to go and play in that manner but I think it suits the group, it suits the players that we have, and you have to play to your strengths.
“Especially on difficult surfaces, when it’s extreme spin like it is here you have to go and put pressure back on the opposition and I thought we did that magnificently well today.”
And while Root, as skipper, frequently moves the conversation back to the team’s performance there is a little glint in his eye when he looks back on the individual battles he won on a tough batting day.
“I certainly enjoyed myself today,” he added.
“There were a few filthy hacks in there at times but the way you have to think about batting, and the sort of mental approach and gameplan, different strategies you might have against different bowlers, makes it really good fun and that’s what it should be about.
“You shouldn’t feel like the pressure is too much but you should really enjoy the occasion and make the most of the opportunity that’s in front of you and I thought that the whole group managed to really harness that today and make the most of it."
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