As many as 12 wickets fell on an eventful opening day in Galle as England went into stumps at 127/2, trailing Sri Lanka by just eight runs, in the first Test of the two-match series.
Sri Lanka were bundled out for 135 – their lowest first-innings total in Galle – after opting to bat, with Dom Bess claiming his second five-for in Test cricket, after Stuart Broad, picked in the XI over Jimmy Anderson, dismantled Sri Lanka's batting line-up.
The England batsmen then made up most of the deficit before the stumps were drawn, despite a difficult start. The visitors lost Dom Sibley in the fifth over of their innings, when Sri Lanka used the DRS to good effect – Sibley was adjudged caught at slip off Lasith Embuldeniya. When Zak Crawley, who scored a double-century in his last Test against Pakistan, followed suit, England seemed in trouble at 17/2.
Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow fight back after early wickets to take England to 127/2 at stumps on day one 🏏— ICC (@ICC) January 14, 2021
They have put up an unbeaten 110-run partnership for the third wicket 👏#SLvENG Scorecard ➞ https://t.co/uTfWpFGwrm pic.twitter.com/NBdC0gXQsK
However, captain Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow absorbed the pressure and counter-attacked, putting on an unbroken 110* to help England go through to stumps primed for a second-day assault. En route that solid partnership, Root brought up his 50th half-century in Test cricket, Bairstow a typically dominant 47*, and Sri Lanka were left to reflect on one of the tougher days they’ve faced in their Galle fortress.
Sri Lanka were dealt an early blow when it emerged their captain, opener Dimuth Karunaratne, was ruled out of the Test with a fractured thumb. Dinesh Chandimal took over the captaincy in his stead, but his team’s batting performance in the first innings has ensured he’ll have a tough outing. Also missing was Suranga Lakmal, who failed to recover from a niggling injury.
The hosts lost their first wicket in as early as the seventh over, when Lahiru Thirimanne fell into Broad’s trap – he had stationed a leg-slip, and sent in a delivery into his ribs, and Thirimanne promptly fended it to the fielder. Two balls later, Broad had another when Kusal Mendis fell to his leg-cutter, feathering an edge to the wicketkeeper Jos Buttler. It was his fourth duck in a row in Tests.
There were a few hopes on Kusal Perera, given his track record for reviving teams in the face of adversity, but when he was dismissed for a 28-ball 20 – he top-edged an attempted reverse-sweep – Sri Lanka were 25/3. It was then that two veteran batsmen, Angelo Mathews and Chandimal, got together to attempt to revive the innings.
It was tough going. Broad had sensed an opening, and Mathews and Chandimal had to be extremely cautious. And they were, putting on a 56-run stand for the fourth wicket, off 113 balls. They had taken the total to 81 when Broad claimed the big wicket of Mathews, who attempted a cut and edged it to slip. When Chandimal followed suit in the next over, Sri Lanka were in dire straits at 81/5.
There was a collapse thereafter. Niroshan Dickwella (12) was dismissed when Sibley took a rather fortunate catch at point off Bess, and four overs later, England struck another blow when Dasun Shanaka, who had scored a hard-fought 23, miscued a slip off Bess and was caught behind.
Dilruwan Perera and Embuldeniya both failed to get off the mark, and while Wanindu Hasaranga’s enterprising 22-ball 19 took Sri Lanka to 135, his dimissal, which helped Bess to the coveted five-wicket haul, ended a difficult innings.
England then ensured they took advantage of that.
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