CAPTAIN Joe Root thanked a fan who waited in Sri Lanka for nearly a year to watch the team play after England won the first Test of the series in Galle.
Rob Lewis, a web designer from Sunbury-on-Thames, first flew out to Sri Lanka on March 13 last year but found out while he was on the plane that England’s tour had been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He stayed in the country, however, and almost a year later was able to watch live as England beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets.
With no fans allowed into the ground, Mr Lewis became “almost a beacon for everyone at home” said Root, who afterwards spoke on the phone with the super fan.
Mr Lewis told the PA news agency: “I think I said something like ‘I’ll be honest with you Joe, it wasn’t too much of a chore staying here in Sri Lanka for ten months. Congrats on your double ton, thanks for saluting me, it meant the world’.
“He saluted the balcony then he turned to me, so that was pretty nuts because a lot of the time you feel a bit lonely and isolated up there and not even sure if they can hear you sing songs. Just for the one little acknowledgement, it made it all worthwhile.
“Joe Root clapped me at the end, which was great, then for him to come over at the end and give me a personal phone call was just amazing.
“Then less than 15 minutes after that, Aggers called me on TMS – I think that’s cricket peaked to be honest. I was on cloud nine. I sat on the fort afterwards just having a few beers on my own – I didn’t really want to leave, I didn’t want the Test to be over.
“It was amazing, I had to drag myself away.”
Root said on the phone: “Rob? Hello mate how are you? It was nice to see you finally up on the fort.
“That’s why I wanted to come over, on behalf of all the lads we really appreciate your support and it’s an incredible story and journey that you’ve been on.
“More than anything I just wanted to say a massive thank you, we really appreciate you being here and making the effort to come down and support us. It’s nice for us to be able to celebrate together a win here in Sri Lanka.”
Mr Lewis had been shooed away by police after watching the first few balls of the game from a fort overlooking the stadium on the first day of the Test, but was allowed back later and appeared to have been able to watch his team clinch victory from the same spot.
“It’s an incredible story. I read about it a little while back now. To see him struggle to get on the fort the first couple of days, then finally up there enjoying himself and getting to watch some cricket was fantastic,” said Root.
“He was almost a beacon for everyone at home watching on the screens. We are very lucky to get the support we do everywhere in the world. It was nice that at the end of the game I managed to have a little conversation with him over the phone.
“It was lovely for him to enjoy that moment with the rest of the group.”
Words by Max McLean, PA.