GALLE, Wednesday: Sri Lankan batsmen put up a wretched batting performance against spin to hand to England a huge advantage in the first cricket Test played at the Galle International Stadium yesterday.
After England were dismissed for 342 half an hour into the start of the second day with Ben Foakes scoring a hundred on his Test debut, Sri Lanka gave a spineless display to be bowled out for a disappointing 203 runs handing to England quite a handy first innings lead of 139.
Rory Burns who had earlier taken a blow on the back of his neck fielding at forward short leg showed that he had recovered from the injury to be unbeaten on 11 with Keaton Jennings his partner on 26.
Sri Lanka’s chances of exploiting the Galle pitch depended on gaining a first innings lead or getting as close to England’s total. But as it turned out it was the England spinners who dictated terms to the Lankan batsmen who were guilty of playing some loose strokes that led to their downfall. They gave a shocking display of batting on a surface which they could have built on a sizeable first innings total.
Apart from the first two wickets that of openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva that were claimed by the two pacies James Anderson and Sam Curran the rest of the Lankan wickets were consumed by England’s three-pronged spin attack of Moeen Ali (4/66), Jack Leach (2/41) and Adil Rashid (2/30).
The only noteworthy innings for Sri Lanka was Angelo Mathews’ half century. He stuck it out for 142 minutes and 122 balls for 52 which comprised three fours. The next highest scorer for Sri Lanka was skipper Dinesh Chandimal who hobbled his way to 33 off 72 balls and did not take the field when England batted in their second innings.
The pair put on the only partnership of substance 75 for the fifth wicket after which there was hardly any resistance.
Following Mathews’ dismissal at 136, Sri Lanka lost five wickets for 67 their lower order unable to replicate what the England batsmen had done. England’s last five wickets contributed 239 runs.
Herath playing in his final Test match was applauded by the England players when he came to bat at no. 11 and after the Lankan innings ended Joe Root the England skipper went across to shake hands with him in a wonderful gesture of camaraderie.
When play began on the second day the focus was on Foakes getting to his hundred on Test debut. Unbeaten on 87 overnight It took him just 16 balls to get there with a four straight past the bowler Suranga Lakmal to become only the second England wicket-keeper after Matt Prior to do so and overall the 20th Englishman to make a century on debut.
Foakes was last out for 107 scored off 202 balls with 10 fours, falling to Lakmal who ended up with three wickets and to round off a memorable day for him he also affected three dismissals (2 ct, 1 st) behind the wickets during the Lankan innings.
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera was Sri Lanka’s most successful bowler taking 5 for 75 – his seventh five-for and first against England.
All the forecast of bad weather was thrown out of the window when the sun shone brightly throughout the day and provided a hot and humid day on the field for an ideal game of Test cricket that was lapped up by the large English audience that outnumbered the locals.
There was support for England not only inside the stadium but also from the ramparts of the historic Galle Fort where several took up positions braving the hot sun to witness England’s dominance.