England saviour Ben Foakes 'never believed' he'd be making his Test debut

Ben Foakes drives down the ground
Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle November 06, 2018

Ben Foakes, England's batting saviour on the first day at Galle, said that he never quite believed he would be in with a chance of making his Test debut, having been drafted into the squad as an injury replacement for Jonny Bairstow, who damaged his ankle playing football during the one-day series last month.

Foakes, who top-scored with 87 not out to lift England from a dicey 103 for 5 to 321 for 8 at the close, had been planning for a winter away from cricket when the call came to link up with the Test squad, and admitted that - even on the eve of the Test - he hadn't dared dream he was truly in with a chance of taking his place in the starting XI.

"No, not at all to tell the truth," Foakes told Sky Sports at the close of play. "When Rooty came to me yesterday, I was pretty surprised be honest with you, but over the moon."

After England had won the toss and chosen to bat first, Foakes might have imagined having a few sessions in which to get his head around the prospect of a Test debut. Instead he found himself out in the middle before lunch as Sri Lanka claimed five wickets in the morning session.

"It was quite whirlwind," he said. "I've always dreamt of a debut, so I had the emotions going on this morning, and there was a bit of rain around, so we weren't quite sure when we'd get on.

"I had no idea what I'd be like, but I was better than I thought I'd be, and getting off the mark second ball, that relieved a lot of pressure."

Foakes, who already knew the England set-up well, having been a member of the Ashes tour party last winter, said that his prior experience of Sri Lankan conditions also worked in his favour, given that he had been on three England Lions tours in recent years, as well as having played club cricket in the country.

"You get a sense of how conditions are and the heat that comes with it," he said. "And last winter, I mean, the Ashes is pretty cool, isn't it? The hype and the buzz around that, and getting to know all the guys for a winter before makes it easy when you come back in.

"It looked quite tough this morning, it had been a lot wetter [in the build-up] so it spun a lot. All I was thinking I was trying to just grind in and make it hard for them to get me out, basically

"I think given the state of the game, I had to kind of nudge and nurdle, which is my game, then it got a little bit drier so it got easier to score your runs. Throughout the day it got easier for us. I personally try to be pretty simple, I haven't got the array of shots of the other guys, I have to try to be quick on my feet, go back and forth, and just try and play a simple game."

Despite England's rather frenetic start, Foakes defended the approach that they had taken from the outset, insisting that the positivity of their batsmen set the agenda for what turned out to be England's highest-scoring day of Test cricket in Sri Lanka.

"I think it's good day," he said. "This morning looked tough, but batting in the fourth innings could be tough, so this could be a really good score first-innings. We need a few more to put them really under pressure.

"We've said be positive, and we put them under pressure," he added. "If we'd sat in when it was spinning that much, it easily could have been 30 for 5. We made them change their gameplans a little bit, and when it got easier we could knock them around a bit.

"I think with the rain we've had in the build-up, the covers have been on, which they weren't expecting or wanting, so it's been a bit wetter than they were hoping. With a few days of sun, which you never have a clue about out here, I think it'll dry out and spin a lot."

As for the prospect of any overnight nerves, as Foakes prepares to resume his innings 13 runs short of a debut Test century, he was unconcerned. "I think I'll pass out straight away, it's hit me quite hard today," he said. "I'll sleep better than last night at any rate!"

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