posted on 2018-11-07 21:17:44
posted by Sahil Jain
Image Courtesy: AP
Patience. Resilience. Composure. Discipline.
These are some of the key factors that went missing when England’s top-order was batting in Galle on the first day of the first Test. It was a very familiar story when England were reduced to 103/5 inside the first session of the match.
In their first Test without Alastair Cook, England crumbled early. After Rory Burns and Moeen Ali fell to Suranga Lakmal, England’s nemesis – spin, did all the damage. However, the dismissals were more the batsmen’s fault than the bowler’s brilliance.
The batsmen tried to push the game forward and force the issue. They wanted to continue their ‘positive’ game plan to unsettle the bowlers. However, it backfired and it led to their own downfall. Joe Root advanced down the track and yorked himself to be out bowled, giving Rangana Herath his 100th Test wicket at Galle. Keaton Jennings who looked good in his 90-minute stay at the crease tried to cut one which was too close to his body. Ben Stokes tried a fancy lap sweep, only to be out bowled and leave his team in tatters. It seemed that England’s old subcontinental problems flared up again as the top-order failed for the nth time.
However, England found a saviour, someone who exhibited all the aforementioned factors and took England to a very good first innings total. On debut, Ben Foakes showed the England top-order the importance of patience and discipline as he dragged England out of trouble.
Despite batting at number 7, the Surrey wicket-keeper walked out to bat with 20 minutes to go for lunch. He had seen the top-order throw their wickets away. But he remained calm and composed. He got off the mark in Test cricket with a nudge towards mid-wicket.
Despite looking a little iffy at times, he saw off a tricky period before lunch on the first day. But after lunch, the resurrection act started. He first put on 61 runs with Jos Buttler for the sixth wicket. Though the latter was the dominant partner, Foakes looked very assured in his approach.
He was patient as he waited for the bad deliveries and once they came, he ensured that he put them away. After Buttler’s departure, it was Sam Curran who continued the resurrection act along with Foakes. Curran was impressive yet again as the 20-year-old all-rounder struck a fluent 48 as he shared an 88-run stand with the debutant. Once again, Foakes didn’t look to dominate. He just went with the flow of the game and focused at putting England back on track.
It was during this partnership that Foakes reached his maiden Test fifty. It was a knock of great application. He had held the innings together and helped England avoid another collapse. The 25-year-old gloveman seemed to be in no hurry even as Curran struck a few lusty blows.
Even as Curran departed with almost an hour to go on the first day, Foakes bided his time. He looked solid as ever as he finished unbeaten on 87 at the end of the day’s play (England finished with 321/8). On the second day, the debutant was inching towards the coveted maiden Test ton but when Jack Leach was dismissed, he was on 95 and it looked like he might be stranded at the other end.
However, James Anderson survived and blocked four deliveries before Foakes struck a couple of boundaries to become to the second England wicket-keeper to score a Test ton on debut. He soaked in the applause as the England dressing room gave him a standing ovation.
He was the last man out a couple of balls later but as he walked back, he was given a rousing ovation. His job though wasn’t done yet. He had to don the gloves and it's not easy to for a non-Asian keeper to keep on these turning tracks.
However, Foakes passed that test as well. He produced a terrific performance behind the stumps as he didn’t concede a single bye. In fact, he was in action straightaway as Dimuth Karunaratne nicked one off Anderson. He then effected a very good stumping off Adil Rashid to dismiss the Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal. He rounded off the first innings with a good catch off Moeen Ali as the latter found the edge off Akila Dananjaya’s bat which was safely pouched by Foakes.
Remember, Foakes was not supposed to be on this trip to Sri Lanka. He was busy holidaying in Lisbon on a “lads’ trip”. However, an injury to Jonny Bairstow meant that he had to fly the island nation. With Jos Buttler already in the team, there were doubts as well whether the 25-year-old Surrey lad would get a chance.
However, now he has left England with a major selection headache. He’s shown great application and character with the bat, and with the gloves, he looked extremely good. Now with Jonny Bairstow expected to be fit for the next Test, who do England leave out? Well, let that be for another day.
For now, Ben Foakes resurrected England from a tricky position to a position of strength. He showed the England top-order how it’s done – patience, resilience, composure and discipline.