Nasser Hussain wants the first Test at Lord’s to become “really tough” and pose a stiff examination of a new-look England.
The hosts declared on 575-9 on day two, after Joe Root reached 200 and bowlers Chris Jordan (19), Stuart Broad (47) and Liam Plunkett (39) blasted a collective 18 boundaries.
But Sri Lanka showed their mettle by reaching 140-1 stumps, and Sky Sports pundit Hussain says the tourists could now present a fierce challenge to Alastair Cook’s charges – and the England captain himself.
“I hope the game goes the full distance and is really tough for England,” said Hussain, after seeing Sri Lanka’s Kaushal Silva (62 not out) and Kumar Sangakkara (32 not out) navigate their way to the close following Dimuth Karunaratne’s departure for 38.
“We need to see if England can survive without a frontline spinner and how Plunkett and Jordan go with the ball, so all eyes will be on Cook’s captaincy.”
Root’s innings made him the fourth youngest England double centurion of all time, behind Len Hutton (22 years, 58 days), Sky Sports’ David Gower (22 years, 102 days) and Bill Edrich (22 years, 242 days).
And Hussain was impressed by the way the Yorkshireman, who recorded his knock at the age of 23 years and 165 days, amassed his runs in the wake of a tough spell during the Ashes whitewash in Australia, which culminated in him losing his place in the side for the fifth Test.
“A massive score is exactly what Root needed at this stage of his career after a quiet period and he has bounced back really well,” Hussain said of the right-hander, who accrued just one half-century in his eight Test innings Down Under.
“What was also noticeable was how busy he was at the crease, as while we can talk a lot about his boundaries, he got lots of ones and twos as well.”
The wicket is now occupied, however, by the veteran Sangakkara, a man with 35 Test hundreds, 45 fifties and a five-day batting average of a tad over 58 to his name.
And Russel Arnold expects the batsman to push on when England and Sri Lanka recommence their battle on Saturday morning, and fire his country to a hefty reply to the home team’s mammoth total.
“If the pitch is anything to go by I think Sangakkara and Silva should get big scores,” added Arnold.
“Sri Lanka need to bat out Saturday and then, if they have wickets in hand, bat on the fourth day, too, and get a few runs ahead.”