Ben Foakes produced another flawless performance on the second day on his Test debut at Galle, adding two catches and a sharp stumping to the maiden Test century that he completed in the morning session, to help cement England’s dominance of the first Test against Sri Lanka.
After resuming on 87 not out overnight, Foakes made it through to three figures with just England’s No.11 James Anderson left for company, before combining with Anderson once again at the start of Sri Lanka’s reply, holding onto a second-ball catch to set the tone for a fine England performance with the ball.
By the close, England led by 177 with ten wickets left in hand, and Foakes was able to reflect on a remarkable couple of days at the close of play.
“I was pretty calm this morning with Leachy [Jack Leach] there,” Foakes told Sky Sports, “then obviously I had about five [runs] to go when Jimmy came out, so I got a bit nervous. But he nicked one just short, so it was meant to be my day. It’s amazing to get it.”
After thumping a pull through midwicket to move to 99, Foakes reached his hundred with a firm push down the ground off Suranga Lakmal that eluded Rangana Herath at mid-on to run away to the boundary.
“I thought I had enough on it,” he said. “I saw Herath running around and he didn’t look like he going to get it, but I wasn’t sure if Jimmy was about stop running, so if it wasn’t going for four I might get run out. But it was such a relief and a great feeling.”
Foakes’ efforts were witnessed by his brother, who arrived in Galle on Monday night, with his mother due to join them soon after the close of play. It has all made for a celebratory performance from a cricketer whose primary suit, his glovework, attracted plaudits as Sri Lanka were rolled aside for 203.
“Obviously getting a few runs settled me down,” he said. “But getting in the game early as a keeper is awesome and obviously with Jimmy bowling you know you’re in the game. So to get the first one early was great.”
While picking off an edge from the seam of Anderson was fairly routine, it was a different challenge to cope with England’s three-pronged spin attack, featuring an offspinner, left-arm spinner and particular, a legspinner in Adil Rashid.
“it’s very different [to facing them in the nets], but the same principles,” Foakes said. “When I came out I was trying to cram it all in, especially with Rashid as he’s got some good variations. But you just have to keep clear in your head and do the basics, basically.”
So far, Foakes added, the pitch hadn’t played quite to its reputation as a spinner’s paradise, but reckoned that all that could change if the sun comes out for any length of time in the coming days.
“As it dries out it loses that tackiness, so it’s spinning quicker, and the odd one skids on,” he said. “When it’s wet it’s easier to keep as it’s consistent spin and spinning slow.
“It depends what’s overhead, if it’s cloudy it won’t dry out as quickly but if it bakes for two days it will turn more and more throughout the game and be difficult for batting.”
And if the sun does come out, then Foakes admitted he may need to change his own preparations to maintain his stamina.
“I was speaking to Matt Prior before the day because I did my normal pre-game routine and I was knackered,” he said. “So it’s about limiting that. He was saying the second you feel good, get yourself in [to the pavilion]. That will be my plan going forward.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.