Joe Root claims England are ready to banish the notion they are vulnerable against ‘mystery spin’ by taming Sri Lanka in their own conditions.
England have long been seen as a soft touch for top spinners and weak on turning conditions in the sub-continent, a reputation which was fairly earned over the years.
But much has changed about their one-day side in the past three years and Root believes the ongoing tour, which began with a washout and continues with Saturday’s second ODI in Dambulla, offers a chance to explode another myth.
To do so they will need to conquer Akila Dananjaya – who mixes up off-breaks, leg-spin and googlies – and the left-arm wrist spin of Lakshan Sandakan.
Dinesh Chandimal talked up the pair’s unpredictability on the eve of the series but Root is confident about the challenge ahead.
“Every bowler you’ve never faced before is mystery, because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said.
“But, as a batter, it’s very easy to build things up, to over-anticipate how things will go. Most importantly you have to play what’s in front of you.
“You can get yourself out by talking yourself out. You prepare, watch the footage, see how they operate and go and play accordingly.
“As a team, our record against spin is right up there if not the best in the world over the last couple of years. This is another opportunity to show everyone how good we are against spin and to perform well on these surfaces.
“It’s important to understand the rhythm of batting here is very different. The way we structure setting a target or chasing one down might be very different to how we go about it at home.
“The way we approach cricket in ODIs is very different since the last time we toured here (in 2014). The way these guys naturally play will always put bowlers under pressure, whether that’s seam or spin. We’ve done it in the majority of places throughout the world, but can we do it here on spinning surfaces?”
Root was also quick to stick up for team-mate Adil Rashid who, along with all-rounder Moeen Ali, seemingly qualifies as ‘conventional’ by local standards.
The Yorkshire leg-spinner has 113 wickets to his name, including 36 this year, and will be relishing a central role across all formats in the coming weeks.
“I think Rash would be a bit disappointed by you saying there’s no mystery about how he bowls,” said Root.
“He has a few tricks in his bag and I’m sure you’ll see that on these surfaces.”
Dananjaya worked through six overs in the abandoned match, enough time to strike an early blow against opener Jason Roy.
Sri Lanka are thought to be considering handing Dananjaya the new ball to give him an early chance against the Surrey batsman and the 25-year-old would be happy to oblige.
“I’m prepared for anything. I’ve opened before,” he said.
“I’m always watching the captain, just waiting for a chance to get the ball in hand. I’ll do whatever the team needs. When I play I actually like pressure, and I try to use it in a way that improves my game.”