Debutant Ben Foakes says he was “inspired” by a video message from former captain Alastair Cook as his unbeaten 87 helped England recover from another batting collapse on day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka.
Poor shot selection saw the tourists slip to 103-5 before lunch in Galle.
But wicketkeeper Foakes’ 184-ball knock took England to 321-8 at the close.
“I don’t know who asked him to do it, but it was awesome,” Foakes, 25, said of the Cook video.
“We all sat down and watched it, it was inspiring and got us pumped up.
- Agnew column: ‘Foakes showed reckless top order the way’
“He’s still lingering around,” the Surrey player joked.
Foakes said that in the video Cook was “talking us through everything about making your debut” as England began their first Test since 2006 without their record runscorer.
He was only brought into the squad as a late replacement when Jonny Bairstow was injured during the one-day series.
Sam Curran scored 48 in a 200-ball partnership of 88 with Foakes, who also put on 61 with Jos Buttler and 54 with Adil Rashid.
Foakes was one of two England debutants in the team – along with opener Rory Burns, who took Cook’s place at the top of the order – while bowler Stuart Broad was left out.
Burns was out for nine in the third over and when four more wickets fell in the morning session it looked as though England could be bowled out for a small total.
But Foakes, Buttler and Curran showed greater patience than the top order and guided their team to a much-improved position, which gives England a platform in the match on a spinning wicket.
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- Reaction to day one in Galle
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Foakes turns tables on opening day
Foakes came to the crease for the first time in Test cricket shortly before lunch despite batting at number seven, having seen the top order perform poorly before him.
In comparison to those that came and swiftly went before him, he was mature, calm and accumulated runs carefully early in his innings.
At first batting alongside Buttler, he blocked good deliveries and was content to work the ball into the outfield, so it was not until his 44th ball that he hit his first boundary.
Foakes hit boundaries all around the wicket as he grew into his innings and was especially impressive in the way he rotated the strike by using his feet to nudge the ball into the leg-side off the spinners.
When Buttler edged Perera behind England were 164-6 but once again Curran showed his worth as a batsman at number eight.
As he did in the summer series against India, his defence looked solid and he also hit three big sixes from loose deliveries from the spinners.
Curran fell to mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya, edging to first slip Dinesh Chandimal when playing expansively, but Rashid then added a 38-ball 35 to help England to a score that arguably means they had the better of the opening day.
Attacking approach leads to familiar collapse
Before the Test, captain Joe Root said his team needed to be “bolder” and more “courageous” in their approach and in the morning session they seemed intent on playing in an attacking manner.
They lost two wickets in two balls in the third over, with Burns caught down the leg side and number three Moeen Ali bowled first ball, both dismissed by seamer Suranga Lakmal.
That brought captain Root to the crease and he looked keen to advance down the pitch and attack, hitting four fours in nine balls early on in his innings.
Root put on 62 from 81 balls with opener Keaton Jennings, with the run rate at one stage above five an over.
The England captain’s method of coming down the pitch to Sri Lanka’s spinners proved to be his downfall though, as he advanced to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath but yorked himself and was bowled for 35.
Jennings was also busy at the crease and played a number of conventional and reverse sweeps in reaching 46 from 53 balls – his highest score since being recalled to the team in the summer – but was then out playing a poor cut shot to a ball that went on to hit leg stump from Dilruwan Perera.
The off-spinner then claimed the wicket of Ben Stokes as the all-rounder also tried to sweep but left his stumps exposed and was bowled around his legs for seven.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on The Cricket Social
On the subcontinent, I have no idea why you would go for this risky approach. It’s like playing against Barcelona with no centre-halves.
The biggest culprit is the captain Root. He’s too good. When he plays in that frantic fashion, it sends a signal to the rest of the team that this is how to play.
He has not sent the right message to his team.
He does not need to take so many risks. Just sit in a bunker and play your shots when you can.
Perera steals show on Herath’s big day
Much of the attention of the home fans at the famous Galle ground was on Herath, who is playing in his 93rd and final Test at the age of 40.
He was given a guard of honour by the Sri Lanka team before play and when he bowled his first over of the day fans let off fireworks outside the ground.
The wicket of Root was the left-arm spinner’s 100th at his home ground, making him just the third bowler to take 100 Test wickets at one ground following England’s James Anderson (Lord’s) and former Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan (Kandy, Galle, and Colombo).
Herath bowled tidily for his 1-78 from 25 overs but it was off-spinner Perera who carried the greatest threat, finishing the day with 4-70.
But Sri Lanka let their promising position slip and there were further issues for the hosts when their captain Chandimal spent time off the field in the afternoon and evening sessions after appearing to injure a groin muscle when fielding in the outfield.
‘I tried to embrace the nerves’ – reaction
England’s Ben Foakes, speaking to BBC Sport: “That was awesome. A week ago I didn’t even have cricket on my radar, things happened really quickly. To find out I was playing yesterday and for it to go well was amazing.
“All I tried to do was embrace the nerves, embrace the excitement, don’t see it as a negative.
“I wasn’t thinking about the scoreboard when I came out to bat. I had my own thing going on, it could have been any score. Once I got off the mark, it was all good. It got easier to bat as the day wore on and I took advantage.
“I think a lot of it depends on how the wicket deteriorates. These could be very useful first-innings runs. You just have to wait and see how the game goes.
“I haven’t got the energy not to sleep, I’ll pass out soon so I think I’ll be all right.”