Skipper Joe Root on Monday said 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 in Galle with Dom Sibley and Jos Buttler guiding the team’s chase of 164 in the extended final session on day four.
Spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess played a key part with four wickets each to skittle out Sri Lanka for 126 in their second innings.
Root, who led by example with match-winning knocks of 228 and 186 in the first and second matches respectively, said the team looks in good shape ahead of the four-Test series in India that starts in Chennai on February 5.
“We’ve got four very important games against arguably the best team in the world in their own conditions,” Root said.
“We’ll have to play right at the top of our game to win out there but we couldn’t be in a better place to go and challenge them.”
The England team face a period of quarantine upon entry to India ahead of the series, but Root said the measures had not fazed the squad.
“We’re gonna have seven or eight days with no cricket, six days in quarantine and then three very important days of prep ahead of the series,” he said.
“But what we have got is a huge amount of confidence coming out of these two games.”
The win was England’s second successive Test whitewash in Sri Lanka after the tourists won all three matches in the island nation in 2018.
– ‘Definitely progress’ –
England have also won five straight Tests away from home as they got past hosts South Africa in the final three matches of a four-match series to triumph 3-1 in January last year.
“Definitely progress. As I mentioned before this game, we have in the past struggled in away conditions,” said Root.
“For us to be able to turn that round, find ways of consistently taking 20 wickets is really impressive. We have just got to stay hungry and keep looking to get better.”
England though will be without Jonny Bairstow for the opening two India Tests as part of the team’s rest and rotate policy for its players during the coronavirus pandemic.
Buttler, who scored 55 and an unbeaten 46 in the second match, will return home after the first Test.
Root said the team, which will be boosted by the return of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, will have to keep up with player rotation in these uncertain times.
“We always want our best players there as often as possible, because of the world we’re in right now it’s not feasible and we have to manage that the best we can,” said Root.
“But he’s still got an opportunity to affect the series and sure he’ll be desperate to keep up the good form.”
The first two Tests of the series, which could be key in deciding the finalists of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, will be played in empty stadiums.
Sri Lanka are scheduled to tour West Indies in a series including two Tests, and coach Mickey Arthur said it is time for the team to reflect after battling hard but ultimately letting it slip in a session of “poor batting”.
Sri Lanka collapsed from 29 for one to 67 for six at lunch on the fourth day to hand England the advantage in the final Test.
“We fought and fought and fought for three days and got ourselves in a really, really good position and in two hours, we proceeded to throw it away,” a disappointed Arthur said.
“It was poor batting, and it’s something that I’m going to go and sit and talk about with the players now.”
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