'Reverse swan' Root praises England for sticking to attacking mindset

Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 3rd day November 16, 2018

Joe Root said that he had batted like a "reverse swan" - visibly frantic but internally calm - after his brilliant second-innings hundred had helped carry England into a position of authority on the third day at Pallekele.

Root made 124 from 146 balls, with ten fours and two sixes, as England reached 324 for 9 before rain brought about an early finish. It was his 15th Test century, and one of his best yet, as it helped to build a lead of 278 - a priceless advantage going into the fourth innings on a spinning deck.

"To start I felt a bit all over the place, a bit hectic," Root told Sky Sports. "I was like a reverse swan - I felt quite calm underneath but the legs were flapping on the outside.

"It was just about trying to get the bowlers to bowl in the areas you want to, take a few risks early, and get used to how the surface is playing.

"Once I'd got to about 20-odd, and got a few boundaries away, I felt I was picking the lengths in terms of sweeping. It made things a lot easier, and I was able to start working out a really good method on that surface."

Root's methods were a continuation of England's unconventional approach to Asian conditions - having been guilty of dying wondering on their more recent visits to the subcontinent, most notably during their 4-0 defeat in India two years ago, they have resolved on this trip to keep the runs coming instead of waiting for the unplayable ball to send them on the way.

"Those are the guys' natural games," he said. "You've got to play to your advantage, and we've certainly done that throughout this tour with the bat."

"The guys have not been shy of experimenting. They've been trying to develop themselves and with that it gives the team a better opportunity to score on a wide range of circumstances. Even when we lost wickets in a cluster, we still managed to score at 4.5/5 an over at times. It felt at no point were we under real big amounts of pressure, we were exerting it back on to them."

Root admitted that calculated risks had been one aspect of England's play, but said that there had been moments when run-scoring was a obvious option that stone-walled defence.

"You try to play it on the line," he said. "a left-arm spinner bowling outside off stump, you might want to sweep. It's free shot, it's not going to hit the stumps or get you lbw, so it might be a better option than playing from the straight.

"Similarly for the offspinners, you want to mess around with the lines and which areas are best for them to bowl at. You play little individual games, you and your partner at the other end, and the best thing about it was that we kept the board going at a really good rate, which was credit to the guys to come out and play that way.

"We're not going to get it right all the time but we've given ourselves a chance in this game," he said. "And if we bowl well on this surface we'll hopefully create at least ten chances."

Root paid particular tribute to Rory Burns, who made his first Test half-century at the top of the order, and set the tone for England's approach in spite of the early loss of the nightwatchman, Jack Leach.

"Losing Leach early, we had a bit of a deficit so there was the temptation to go into our shells, but the guys played with freedom, good courage, but with respect to some good balls out there as well.

"Burns came out to bat with calmness, in control of what he's trying to do, he was unflappable if you like. When you watch him bat, he has everything there to go on and have a really good Test career."

The overnight rain threatens to add an extra layer of intrigue to Sri Lanka's run-chase, as and when it gets underway at the fall of England's final wicket.

"It'll be interesting to see how the pitch plays with this amount of rain tonight," said Root. "If it tacks it up and makes it spin a bit more, or holds it together a bit better. The most important thing is that we recognise what it's going to be like and adapt very quickly.

"We may have over-attacked with some of the fields in the first innings, we saw it spin and got a bit giddy, myself in particular, but it might just be that we have to hold a bit longer, be a bit more patient and hit the stumps more often."

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