Joe Root completed his fourth double century for England on Saturday but insisted it will mean nothing if his side cannot overcome a defiant Sri Lanka in the first Test.
The England captain made 228 of his team’s 421 all out – 26 runs short of his brilliant 254 career best against Pakistan at Old Trafford in 2016.
But Lahiru Thirimanne led Sri Lanka’s stubborn resistance, hitting an unbeaten 75 while Kusal Perera made 62 as the home team reached 156/2 in their second innings. After their disappointing 135 in the first innings, they need another 130 to reach England’s total.
Root’s 321 ball innings with a six and 18 fours dominated the day. It took less than an hour in the opening session to add the 32 runs to his overnight total. He reached 200 with a four off Lasith Emuldeniya.
While the empty Covid-19-stricken stadium meant that only his teammates in the pavilion and a lone England fan watching from a nearby fort could applaud, the performance confirmed Root’s return as a batsman after a barren 2020 saw him fall to number 11 in the ICC rankings.
He had not reached three figures in a Test since his 226 in New Zealand in November 2019. Root also scored an unbeaten 200 against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in 2014.
Running out of partners, Root was the last man out, caught by Emuldeniya on the boundary as he went for a six off Dilruwan Perera.
The unpredictable weather and durability of Sri Lanka’s defences will determine the result.
After their first innings collapse, Sri Lanka looked a different side in the second.
Perera and Thirimanne made 101 for the first wicket.