Things looked pretty dicey for England on day one of the first Test at Lord’s when they slipped to 22-2 and, latterly, 74-3 against Sri Lanka.
However, after Ian Bell (56) scored an important half-century, the fightback continued thanks to Joe Root’s unbeaten ton, an encouraging performance from Moeen Ali and a welcome knock for Matt Prior.
England reached 344-5 at stumps and in his post-play analysis, Sky Sports pundit Mike Atherton had his say on England’s numbers five, six and seven.
The onetime opener explained why it is now vital that Root blossoms regularly and why Prior – who survived a reviewed lbw appeal at the start of his innings – remains a key man for his country despite a recent lean spell with the bat.
Plus, Atherton examined why Test debutant Moeen will have mixed feelings about his first foray into the five-day game, as you will find out by reading the paragraphs below…
JOE ROOT – 102 not out from 190 balls
ATHERS SAYS: I hope that his yo-yoing up and down the order stops now and he will have a chance to develop in his current position of number five having come back into the side. He is not one of the senior players but he is also not one of the new boys anymore, so as someone who has been around for a little while, has something about him and is a potential captain down the line, he has to kick on and cement his place.
MATT PRIOR – 76 not out from 103 balls
ATHERS SAYS: Prior, meanwhile, has had a stinker of a year and if he had been given out first ball you would have been able to hear the cries for Jos Buttler really chime, but he showed why the selectors wanted him. He is such a fluent player - England will rattle along at four or five runs an over when he is at the crease – and to have him coming in at No. 7 when the opposition is tired is perfect.
MOEEN ALI – 48 from 98 balls
ATHERS SAYS: Ali will sit there on the balcony and be delighted for Root and Prior but know deep down that they were runs he could have scored after going through the difficulty of his first Test innings. However, he looked very fluent, calm and composed and his judgment on off stump was excellent. He has a bit of flair, too – as he showed when he hit Rangana Herath for six - and he is going to have many more good days.