Ben Foakes hit an unbeaten 87 on England debut as the tourists closed day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on 321-8.
Foakes, only called into the England Test squad following Jonny Bairstow’s ankle injury towards the end of last month’s ODI series, put on 61 with Jos Buttler (38), 88 with Surrey team-mate San Curran (48) and then 54 with Adil Rashid (35) after England had tumbled to 103-5.
Foakes’ county colleague and fellow debutant Rory Burns (9) hit two boundaries before he snicked Suranga Lakmal down the leg-side from the 12th ball he faced, with Moeen Ali (0) bowled next delivery for a golden duck as England slipped to 10-2 after Root elected to bat.
Root (35) then shared a 62-run stand with Keaton Jennings (46), only for the former’s wicket – the England captain bowled to become retiring Sri Lanka spinner Rangana Herath’s 100th Test victim at Galle and 431st overall – to trigger a collapse of 3-31 before lunch.
But Foakes’ stands with Buttler, Curran and Rashid have lifted the visitors’ up to a reasonable total, with Foakes now looking to become the 20th Englishman to hit a ton on debut and first since Jennings in India in 2016.
Sri Lanka were buoyant on Tuesday morning once Ali had his off-stump clattered and Root walked out to bat in the third over but the visiting captain and Jennings scored briskly, the latter looking far more comfortable against spin than he did against India’s pacemen this summer.
Dinesh Chandimal’s hosts burned both their reviews inside 12 overs, with failed attempts to have Root lbw and Jennings caught behind, while Angelo Mathews, back in the Sri Lanka side after missing the recent limited-overs games due to perceived fitness issues, spilled a simple chance to remove Jennings at slip on 26 as he edged an Akila Dananjaya googly.
However, Root then yorked himself as Herath – given a guard of honor by his team-mates after stepping onto the field for his 93rd and final Test – became the third bowler to take a century of strikes at a single Test venue after countryman Muttiah Muralitharan (Galle, Kandy, Colombo) and England paceman James Anderson (Lord’s).
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera (4-70) bowled Jennings on the cut and Ben Stokes (7) on the sweep to leave England five down inside 24 overs, before Foakes led the fightback, the new boy’s partnership with Buttler ended on the stroke of drinks in the second session as Buttler edged Dilruwan.
Foakes, who completed a debut fifty from 111 deliveries, found another fine ally in Curran, who dug in but also launched three sixes before edging Dananajya behind on the drive, Chandimal hobbling as he took the catch after tweaking his groin earlier in the day.
Rashid then ruined Sri Lanka’s hopes of mopping up the England tail with an aggressive innings, in which he blazed two maximums and four fours before slashing Dilruwan to slip, leaving Jack Leach (14no) with Foakes at stumps.
England had earlier made the decision to omit Stuart Broad from their side, with Anderson, Curran and Stokes forming the seam attack and Ali, Rashid and Leach offering spin.
Watch day two of the first Test between England and Sri Lanka live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4.15am on Wednesday.