Galle was Sri Lanka’s fortress, and one most visiting teams have struggled to conquer. But for the English, it seemed as if they were playing at home. While Sri Lanka managed to finish off England’s first innings just eight minutes before the first break, even putting on a decent show with the bat during the [...]


Sri Lanka fight back but England firmly in control

Hosts take leaf from England skipper to make solid start in second innings with two more days to go

Joe Root brings up his fourth double century

Galle was Sri Lanka’s fortress, and one most visiting teams have struggled to conquer. But for the English, it seemed as if they were playing at home.

While Sri Lanka managed to finish off England’s first innings just eight minutes before the first break, even putting on a decent show with the bat during the next two sessions, the visitors are in firm control at the close of the third day’s play. At stumps, Sri Lanka were 156 for 2 trailed by 130 runs to go with their first innings 135.

With two days to go, weather permitting, an English victory is all but assured given the 286 run first innings lead they recorded on the back of a fine double ton from skipper Joe Root. Unless, that is, Sri Lanka turns the tables with a magical performance with both bat and ball in the next two days.

Having countered England’s bowling threat well in the last two sessions, they still have a mountain to climb: first, to erase the deficit of 130 to deny Englishmen of an innings victory and, then, to score as many runs as possible to give their bowlers something to bowl at.

Batting on day five is not easy in Galle where the ball often turned square, bewildering the batsmen. But, for this, Sri Lanka need to really bat deep, and bat at least during next three sessions to save the game. This requires a much more resilient temperament and patience from the Lankans batters, and that’s been missing.

This seems a daunting task after the farcical show in the first innings where they batted poorly, throwing their wickets as if in a hurry to join teammates playing Omi inside the dressing room. Their batting was so horrendous that former cricket greats termed it as the worst 46 overs in Test cricket history–a disgrace to a country that has produced many a legend over the years.

Sri Lanka’s approach in the second inning was far better, seeming like they had learnt from Roots’s patience and composure in his marathon innings. He had played immaculately to notch up his fourth double century and become only the seventh England batsman to pass 8,000 Test runs before being out last man, dancing down the pitch off Dilruwan Perera, to hit over the long on boundary.

Openers Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne put on 101, as Sri Lanka made a solid start in the second innings - Pix courtesy SLC

Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne then batted with much control and composure rotating strike as often as possible to put on a century stand for the first wicket–a rarity these days from the Sri Lankan openers. England bowlers had no success between lunch and tea as the duo were judicious, technically sound, and unwavering in their determination to make the visitors work for it (everything they were not in the first inning). However soon after tea, England struck, removing Perera for 62 (his seventh half century). A delivery short and wide outside off, off Sam Curran should have been hit over the boundary. Instead, Perera found Jack Leach at deep point as the determined first wicket stand came to an end.

With an average of just over 22 before this game, Lahiri Thirimanne’s inclusion as a specialist batsman is a curious case for many and exposes Sri Lanka’s depth in the talent pool. But yesterday, this 31-year-old Southpaw, a veteran of 37 Tests, scored his seventh half-century, batting with a sense of command and responsibility.

Kusal Mendis came in at the fall of Perera’s wicket under tremendous pressure to end a horror run of four consecutive ducks. He did survive for 102 minutes at the crease, facing 65 deliveries to score 15 runs, but perished when he got a thin edge off Jack Leach trying to defend a ball that turned and bounced. Mendis was, however, involved in a 54-run stand with Thirimanne who remained unbeaten on 76. He has just 27 runs in his last six innings.

England resumed the day on 320 for the loss of four wickets and the overnight pair of Root (168) and Jos Buttler (7) continued to frustrate the Sri Lankans sharing 52 more runs for the fifth wicket but the change of ball in the 105th over of the innings did the trick for the Lankans. Asitha Fernando removed Buttler and Sam Curran in successive deliveries shattering England’s hopes of extending their lead over 300 runs before Dilruwan Perera removed the tail, bowling at a good line and length to finish with four wickets.

However, it was Lasith Embuldeniya who showed promise in the game claiming the first three wickets of the English innings. He had little support from Dilruwan Perera–the man who picked up 22 wickets in his previous outing against England–and Wanindu Hasaranga–the man being touted as Sri Lanka’s next big thing in cricket–as they scarcely caused any trouble until last morning.

England 1st innings
Zak Crawley c Hasaranga b Embuldeniya 9
Dominic Sibley c Thirimanne b Embuldeniya 4
Jonny Bairstow c Mendis b Embuldeniya 47
Joe Root c Embuldeniya b Perera 228
Dan Lawrence c Mendis b Perera 73
Jos Buttler c Dickwella b Fernando 30
Sam Curran b Fernando 0
Dom Bess run out 0
Jack Leach lbw b Perera 4
Mark Wood c Dickwella b Perera 2
Stuart Broad not out 11
Extras (7b, 6nb) 13
Total (all out: 117.1 overs) 421
Fall of Wickets: 1-10 (Sibley), 2-17 (Crawley), 3-131 (Bairstow), 4-304 (Lawrence), 5-372 (Buttler), 6-372 (Curran), 7-382 (Bess), 8-398 (Leach), 9-406 (Wood), 10-421 (Root)
Bowling: Lasith Embuldeniya 45-4-176-3, Asitha Fernando 14-1-44-2, Wanindu Hasaranga 15-1-63-0, Dilruwan Perera 36.1-2-109-4, Dasun Shanaka 7-1-22-0
Sri Lanka 1st innings
135 all out (46.1) (Dinesh Chandimal 28, Angelo Mathews 27, Dom Bess 5/30, Stuart Broad 3/20)
Sri Lanka 2nd innings
Kusal Perera c Leach b Curran 62
Lahiru Thirimanne not out 76
Kusal Mendis c Buttler b Leach 15
Lasith Embuldeniya not out 0
Extras (1b, 2nb) 3
Total (2 wickets: 61.0 overs) 156
Fall of Wickets: 1-101 (K. Perera), 2-155 (Mendis)
To Bat: Chandimal, Mathews, Dickwella, Shanaka, Hasaranga, D. Perera, Fernando
Bowling: Stuart Broad 8-6-3-0, Sam Curran 7-0-25-1, Dom Bess 13-2-30-0, Mark Wood 7-1-20-0, Jack Leach 20-2-67-1, Joe Root 6-0-10-0

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