“I just told them that it would be something they could talk about and enjoy for the rest of our lives if we could win.” Joe Root kept the talk pretty simple and straightforward before the final day of the second Test and England duly claimed the final three wickets to win their first series overseas for three years.
It was the first time since Old Trafford 1956 that England had won a Test match without a fast bowler taking a wicket – that was the match in which Jim Laker took 19 wickets.
Jack Leach has a lovely line in self-deprecation. The Somerset man will be the last to talk himself up. Asked whether he had ever played in Pallekelle before, he replied: “No, but I was 12th man for the Lions here and carried the drinks for four days, so I knew my way around the ground…maybe that helped,” he replied following his maiden five-wicket haul.
“It was always the plan to keep the stumps in the game, keep the batsmen thinking and not bowl wide, and that’s exactly what Leachy did on the final morning,” Root said.
“I’m so pleased for all the boys, the whole squad. We committed to a new approach, a new way of playing and they all stuck to it. We talked the talk before the series started but we’ve walked the talk, too, in the first two Tests and we’ve a got a series win to show for it.”
Talksport’s ‘big three’ – Mark Nicholas, Darren Gough and Matt Prior – have been staying at the Victoria Golf and Country Club throughout our time in Kandy and have been playing the magnificent layout at every opportunity. They would have played under floodlights if it was possible.
The early finish gave the ‘other three’ a chance to see what all the fuss was about. Gareth Batty, Jarrod Kimber and I played nine holes on Sunday afternoon and saw first-hand why the layout is consistently rated amongst the world’s top 100 courses. Wow.
The rest of the crew have been staying in the Kandy Waters Guest House – a last minute arrangement when we were tossed out of of our original hotel by the Sri Lanka Cricket because they needed the rooms. If the staff (Neranjan and Athula) had not been so hospitable, helpful and friendly, it would have been a miserable experience. But, because we see how hard they work and how hard, even the cockroaches look like they’ve been cleaned before they visit.
A kind of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ kicks in after eight days in a place like this. I’ll miss this funny little room with its multi-coloured strip lighting around the ceiling and the shower stuck on the side of the wall pointing straight at the toilet.
But not too much. Colombo here we come. (And we’re taking the train.)
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