Buttler hails another Root 'masterclass'

By Sports Desk January 24, 2021

Joe Root treated his England team-mates to an education in how to play spin bowling following his domination of the Sri Lanka attack, says Jos Buttler.

Captain Root backed up his 228 in the first Test victory with a monumental 186 in Galle on Sunday, falling cruelly to a run out from the final ball of the day.

Oshada Fernando's quick thinking at short leg meant England closed day three on 339-9 - a first-innings deficit of 42.

Despite that giving Sri Lanka a slight edge in their bid to secure a series-levelling win, attention afterwards understandably focused upon Root, who passed Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower to go fourth on England's all-time list of Test run scorers over the course of a fabulous knock.

"It was quite an amazing innings," Buttler said. "To back up his double hundred in the first Test, to show the mental and physical application to go again.

"It's been a masterclass in batting against spin. It's been a great education for all of us watching from the sidelines.

"We've thoroughly enjoyed watching him and we're gutted for him getting out in that fashion at the end of the day."

Buttler, who was the only other England batsman to pass 50, shared a 97-run stand with Root for the fifth wicket and also marvelled at his skipper's powers of endurance.

The 30-year-old Root motored on during the evening session despite cramps and back pain demonstrating the toll taken.

"For all eight days of the series so far he's been out on the field," Buttler said. "This game feels a lot hotter and lot more draining than the first game, [which had] rain breaks.

"We have to praise not only the tactical and technical aspect of his game, but the physicality and concentration to apply himself for so long.

"Once again, to back up the first Test is quite amazing really."

Lasith Embuldeniya carried the fight for Sri Lanka with superb figures of 7-132, but even the in-form slow left-armer could not escape punishment from Root, who swept with authority and even unfurled an audacious switch hit to fine effect.

"There were some quite amazing shots, really," added Buttler, who is consistently England's most innovative strokemaker across all formats. "It show the confidence and the skill level is amazing.

"He even played a little late cut left-handed. It's been great to watch. His skill level is second to none."

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    When England posted 416 on the opening day of the second Test at Trent Bridge, many felt West Indies chances of even getting close to that total were dimmed by the host’s formidable bowling attack.

    But as the sun rose high in the Nottingham sky on Friday’s second day, so did the fortunes of the Caribbean side, thanks to a stunning fightback led by the ever-composed Kavem Hodge.

    The Dominican batsman, in only his second Test series, etched his name in the annals of cricketing history, as he scored a maiden Test century, a knock that not only underscored his talent and grit, but more importantly, revived West Indies hopes of securing a positive result on this occasion.

    Hodge’s 120 off 171 balls, ensured that West Indies, who were hammered by an innings and 114 runs in the first Test at Lord’s, closed the day at 351-5, 65 runs behind heading into Saturday’s third day.

    “It's a dream come true,” Hodge, who made his debut against Australia earlier this year, declared in a post-day press conference.

    “Obviously, playing the game from a youngster growing up, that's something that you want to do, especially at the highest level in England against England. I'm really happy and I'm satisfied about it, especially, also given the position that the team is in, it's always good to help to the team, so I'm grateful for that,” he added.

    Coming to the crease with the West Indies teetering at 84-3, Hodge faced a daunting task, as the Andre Coley-coached side needed a hero –or in this case, two. This, as Hodge had an able partner in his Dominican compatriot Alick Athanaze, who made a well-played 99-ball 82.

    Together, they steadied the innings, with a crucial 175-run fourth-wicket partnership that took the fight to the English bowlers. Hodge played the perfect foil to Athanaze's aggression, rotating the strike and providing the support his teammate needed.

    “We always batted well together, we played for the same franchise back home and we've had a lot of partnerships, big partnerships. So it's always good to spend time with him. He's a bit more aggressive than I am. I'm more the accumulator, so I tend to go under the radar and go about my business quietly, but it is always great to spend time with him at the wicket,” Hodge said of 25-year-old Athanaze.

    “It's always good to know that the friends, family, and the nation is looking on. That's one of the things you want to do as an ambassador for your country, is put them on the map. Always have a positive light for your country. So I'm really grateful for that,” he added in reference to Dominica celebrating their feat.

    Reflecting on his innings, Hodge pointed to the importance of staying focused and taking things in stride. In fact, the 31-year-old even highlights that his current success is a testament to his unflinching desire and resilience, as there were times when being overlooked sparked doubts about his ability to make it to the big stage.

    However, after scoring 18 half-centuries, five centuries, and over 3,000 runs at the First Class level, the all-rounder, who also took 2-44 during England's innings, eventually got the big break against Australia in February.

    “There were times where I started to doubt myself because I wasn't getting the opportunity. There were times where, you know, to make a test team, obviously because of COVID, we had something called the best invest where they would, like, bring guys in and then they would split the squad into two, and then we would have warm up games and practice games to select the team.

    “I think I've taken part in that, like six or seven times, and every time, a selector or the coach would come to me and say, ‘we're not going to select you; we're looking in this direction’. So every time I went to the best invest, it just took a little bit out of me. But I'm just grateful that I stuck with it and things are now working out, so I'm happy for that,” Hodge explained.

    He continued: “So it (century) was always a dream, and I always wanted to just give myself the best chance to get there. There were times where I had a little bit of doubt, but I never thought about giving up. I always thought I would just try and try and try. If it didn't happen, it didn't happen.