Centurion Joe Root thanked batting partner James Taylor for showing no fear in a third-wicket stand of 104 that boosted England to a five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in Pallekelle.
Chasing 240 to win after rain ravaged Wednesday’s play, Root shared crucial partnerships with Taylor (68) and then 86 with Ravi Bopara (28) for the fourth wicket in the fifth one-day international.
The Yorkshire batsman praised Taylor, fresh from his 90 in Colombo in what was only his third ODI, for bringing much-needed serenity to the crease following the early departures of openers Moeen Ali and captain Alastair Cook.
“We spoke all week how we wanted guys to go in and get big scores and be there at the end, so it’s nice to be there myself,” said Root.
“It’s great to see him (Taylor) come in and play like that, he’s done it in domestic cricket for a long time now and for him to come into international cricket and do that, it’s really refreshing.
“We have good fun out there and enjoy each other’s company.
“We knew it wasn’t a huge score but it was quite a tricky one because of the wicket so we tried to make sure we rotated well, without using up too many dot balls and, if we had the boundary option, to take it.
“We had no fear of losing our wicket and took the small totals of 10 runs at a time to do it progressively, just like that.”
Cook only managed 20 runs before being trapped lbw by Sachithra Senanayake, who also bowled Moeen for four, and the England captain was similarly grateful to Nottinghamshire’s Taylor for digging his side out of trouble.
He said: “He’s obviously done fantastically well – a 90 and a 70 – and he’s played in exactly the same way on two difficult wickets, so full credit to James for coming in and taking his chance like that.”
England had to return on the reserve day, after rain on Wednesday, to chase 240 – and thanks chiefly to Root’s 104 not out and Taylor’s innings, the successful mission was rarely in doubt.
The reply did hit early trouble, with the wickets of both openers but Taylor responded with a calm intent to provide the initial impetus as England posted their first century partnership of this tour.
It took just 20 overs and although Taylor then fell disappointingly, what had appeared an awkward target on a spinner’s pitch never transpired as such despite a minor late wobble before Root reached his hundred with his favoured slog-sweep for a six off Ajantha Mendis to go with his seven fours from 115 balls.
England sealed the deal with five balls to spare and therefore have the chance, when they return to this ground tomorrow, to square the series at 3-3 with one to play back in Colombo.
Cook and Moeen both fell to the spin of Senanayake, in his first match back after having his action cleared by the International Cricket Council.
Taylor had already hoisted Tillakaratne Dilshan over long on for six, before hooking up once more with Root – after their partnership of 93 in Sunday’s defeat at the Premadasa Stadium.
Once more, they profited from fine running, constantly putting fielders under pressure, and deft placement until Taylor mis-pulled Ruchira Perera straight to long leg.
He had hit five fours and that six from 90 balls by then, though, and it seemed England had surely done all the hard work.
So it proved, Bopara lending Root fresh support before being caught at long on.