If there has been an adherent criticism of England in recent years, it is in fact that they have become green trackballs.
There has been some truth in the criticism as well. They arrived in Sri Lanka who have not won any of their previous 13 away tests, after all, and without a foreign series win for almost three years. They were dangerous in England, but without the Duke's ball and stitching and swing-friendly conditions, their bowling attacks could look like a toothless. During the last couple of British winters, they have announced 600 totals on four occasions: twice in India and Australia. During the same two seasons in England they have granted 400 only once.
Sri Lanka knew all this. And they knew that England's spin record – both delivering it and playing it – was modest. Then they tried to produce places that would exploit England's sustained weakness and encourage their own strengths.
To some extent they were also successful. Only one wicket in the whole Kandy test fell to the bowling of the seam and 38 fell to spin. England's seamers have so far only taken three wickets in the series. Under normal circumstances, you can expect numbers to get sick in England.
But here they are two-up with one to play. So well, they have adapted to the challenge in front of them that they have their first series victory in Asia since 2012 and their first in Sri Lanka since 2001.
While Sri Lanka clearly is not the side they once were – how could they be after the departure of Rangana Herath, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawards in recent times – the fact is that they have defeated South Africa and Australia here in recent years. They have also won in Bangladesh and UAE. This is therefore a significant victory.
The key to England's success is the options and depths of their all-rounders. Having two men in the top six (Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali) who have centuries and five wicket hauls on Test level is an incredible asset for all captains. When you throw in Sam Curran, whose first inning 64 was vital and Adil Rashid, averaging 22 from No. 9 in the series, you end up with a batting lineup that is both difficult to end and can utilize a softening ball and tired bowlers. The total value of England's two tenth wicket in this test is 101. You do not have to be a mathematician to understand the meaning of a match where the margin was 57 runs.
More than that, the versatile force allows England to choose options that they could not afford if they had to choose a page containing six special batsmen, one goalkeeper and four bowlers. While a few non-Asian sides may have played three spinners here, not many have also managed to field three seamers. In theory, at least almost every base is covered.
It has been especially true when you chose the rotational attack. In isolation, all three of England's spinners have shortcomings. Rashid bowls too many darts; Moeen is not entitled to build pressure and Jack Leach can only see a small pedestrian.
But in combination, their strengths are emphasized. So Leach adds in particular control and problems with the right handler. Moeen adds bets and problems with left hands, especially. And Rashid, who has it in him to bowls balls with balls on flat surfaces when the batsmen are at the top, is the partnership. When Root can combine all three – and throw in some surplus himself when needed – he has a powerful weapon.
"The three of them complement each other beautifully," said Root afterwards. "Jack gives a lot of control and the fact that they all spin the ball differently helps it. It gives many variations and gives the batter a bit of thinking all the time."
However, the main difference has been Leach. His control has enabled England to build pressure in a way that was noticeably absent in Australia and India. Maybe Moes batting will maintain his position as a first choice when returning to England, but Leach has quickly emerged as the most reliable trio and the one to which Root turns most often. He has scored more surplus than any of them in this series.
"When the pressure is built at the other end with Jacks who like bowling, it makes it possible for Moeen and Adil to be very aggressive and try to take important wickets. The shock Jack has had – how he performed on these surfaces and pressured pressure despite not having much experience – has been brilliant. "
Somerset deserves a mention here. Some of the surfaces they have provided in recent years in Taunton have provided significant support to Leach and Co; a fact that has left some opponents deeply unreasonable. But bowling under these conditions seems to have developed Leach's experience and confidence. And if it has helped England to win in Asia,
"Jack has taken all the experience he has had at Somerset bowling at these wickets at Ciderabad, or what they call it down, and he has done a great job," said Root.
However, they are not very easy to captain. All three are more likely to deliver more four-balls than John Emburey or Ray Illingworth could have done before. As a result, Root is bound to stick to in-out fields that can allow the batsmen to pick out relatively simple singles. But then the pace and mentality of the modern game that the batsmen rarely seem pleased with such narrow choices. Still, Root deserves to keep his side calm and focused on the field despite game periods – not least the fourth afternoon – when Sri Lanka appeared to be able to win. However, someone needs a silent word with him about his bowling. Having thrown after lunch was yesterday madness; No wonder he assumed a sleepless night and doubt not to ask Stokes to bowl.
It can be simplicity to just credit Root here, anyway. When we reflect on this period in a few years, we may well conclude that the 2015 World Cup was the turning point in England's wealth. England – called by Eoin Morgan, in particular, and the inspiration example of Brendon McCullum – identified new players and a new way of playing that suited those who have been encouraged by a relaxed coaching team emphasizing enjoyment and skills beyond discipline and restraint. It has clearly entered how they play their test cricket
"We learn from the daily side," said Root. "Eoin told the boys to go play with freedom" and you saw them embrace it. We saw a big improvement very quickly.
"We learn from the daily page. Eoin told the boys to go play with freedom" and you saw them embrace it. We saw a big improvement very quickly "
"It's not that easy in Test cricket. You can not just say" turn as hard as you can "but sometimes get hold of each other and have a good understanding of how you want to play under certain circumstances can really help you. Sometimes it takes You're wrong, but get rid of it because you've really thrown it into it.
"In this part of the world, on areas that spin dramatically, it can be very difficult to trust your defense. The conditions have been extreme. So we have to play to our advantage as much as possible. An opportunity to play in it [aggressive] put under these conditions.
"It may be hard to be true to it. In today's cricket, everything is laid out for you, if you bet others, for example." And the wickets are generally quite good. "In the Test Cricket, you need to be more adaptable. us. But you start to see the confidence grow and an improvement within the team. This is a very special win. "
There are other factors. Investments in Lions tours and foreign investments have made it possible for several of this group to come up with some confidence in the terms. So has England's superior fitness and agility in the field. The field is actually the biggest difference between these two sides. Had Stokes missed his shame on the stumps or Keaton Jennings, at short legs, could not paralyze the ball to Ben Foakes for that catch, Sri Lanka could have won.
And while Root won the Player-of-the-Match Prize, there was really significant innings from Rory Burns, Ben Foakes and Curran who played great roles as well. The root is right when he credits the entire page.
However, it was a particularly important performance for Leach. Not only did he register his first five-wicked hedge in Test cricket, but he returned to a field where he had endured one of the lowest points in his career and got rid of victory.
Because last February, Leach was released by the England Lions side for the first unofficial test against Sri Lanka A after struggling with his new bowling action. Despite completing the 2016 season as the second highest wicket winner in Division One in the County Championship (he claimed 65 at 21.88), Leach had missed the choice for trips to Bangladesh and India and was subsequently found to have an illegal action during routine tests at the National Performance Center in Loughborough.
Remedial work with his action at the beginning seemed to have gone well. However, with a warm-up match on the tour, Leach went for 68 in 14 wicketless overs (the second specialist spinner, Ollie Rayner, took three for 55 from 22 surplus in comparison) and then disappeared from the unofficial test that followed.
Having returned from the low and bowling England to victory in Asia is a remarkable achievement. It demonstrates courage, resilience, determination and a great deal of hard work. He and England deserve all praise that comes their way.