Joe Root says England “couldn’t be in a better place” to challenge India after conquering Sri Lanka

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Skipper Joe Root said on Monday that England will take “confidence” from their 2-0 Test sweep in Sri Lanka to challenge world number two India. England beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in a tight second Test at Galle, with Dom Sibley and Jos Buttler leading the team’s chase to 164 in the extended final session on day four.

Spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess played key roles with four wickets each, eliminating Sri Lanka 126 in its second innings.

Root, who led by example with match-winning punches of 228 and 186 in the first and second games respectively, said the team is looking good ahead of the four-test series in India starting February 5 in Chennai.

“We have four very important games against arguably the best team in the world in their own circumstances,” said Root.

“We will have to play at the top to win there, but we couldn’t be in a better place to challenge them.”

The England team faces a period of quarantine upon entry into India prior to the series, but Root said the measures had not disrupted the squad.

“We have seven or eight days without cricket, six days in quarantine and then three very important preparation days prior to the series,” he said.

“But what we have is a tremendous amount of confidence that comes from these two games.”

The win marked England’s second consecutive test in Sri Lanka, after the tourists won all three matches on the island in 2018.

– ‘Absolute Progress’ –

England have also won five consecutive Tests away from home as they passed host country South Africa in the last three games of a four-game run to take 3-1 victory last January.

“Certainly progress. As I said before, we have struggled in out conditions in the past,” said Root.

“For us to be able to turn that round around, it’s really impressive to find ways to consistently take 20 wickets. We just have to keep hungry and keep looking to get better.”

However, England will be without Jonny Bairstow for the opening of two India Tests as part of the team’s rest and rotation policy for its players during the coronavirus pandemic.

Buttler, who scored 55 and an unbeaten 46 in the second game, returns home after the first Test.

Root said the team, which will be boosted by the return of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, will need to keep up with player rotation in these uncertain times.

“We always want our best players out there as often as possible, because of the world we are in right now, it’s not feasible and we have to manage that as best we can,” said Root.

“But he still has the opportunity to influence the series and he will certainly be desperate to stay in good form.”

The first two tests of the series, which could be key in determining the finalists for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, will be played in empty stadiums.

Sri Lanka is touring the West Indies in a series with two Tests, and coach Mickey Arthur said it is time for the team to think hard after fighting hard, but eventually to slip into a session of “poor batting”.

Sri Lanka dropped from 29 for one to 67 for six at lunch on the fourth day to give England the advantage in the final Test.

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“We fought and fought and fought for three days and got in a really, really good position and within two hours we threw it away,” said a disappointed Arthur.

“It was a bad at bat, and it’s something I’m going to talk to the players about now.”

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