Jimmy Anderson destroyed the Sri Lankan top order before Mahela Jayawardene rescued his side with a beautifully crafted century… Haven’t we seen this somewhere before?
Toss a coin. On a pitch which offered little bar the odd bit of uneven bounce and a few deliveries which turned later in the day, Anderson tore into the hosts’ top three again. Tillakaratne Dilshan continued his homage to Virender Sehwag and the Dirty Pretty Things by whacking two fours before promptly edging the very next ball to Matt Prior, an act which exposed Kumar Sangakkara to the new ball once more. Whereas in Galle he flashed at a wide ‘un first up, this time England’s spearhead dished up an absolute peach and there wasn’t a lot Sangakkara could do. Andrew Strauss very nearly let him off by desperately trying to drop it at first slip; a move which sent Mike Atherton’s voice so high we’ve heard rumours that he shattered three windows in the press box. Fortunately for England, and for the captain himself, he held on at the second attempt and once Anderson removed Lahiru Thirimanne thanks to a leave which could best be described as ‘ill-judged’, the tourists were right amongst them.
Alas, once again, Sri Lanka’s first innings was saved by their captain, and Jayawardene played another wonderful innings to hold England at bay for much of the afternoon. At no point was he as free-flowing as in Galle, testament to the control the bowlers displayed all day, but, along with Thilan Samaraweera, he dragged his side into a position of strength as tea approached. We like making outlandish statements here at 51allout (lest you forget not a single one of us thought Sri Lanka would win a Test) so we’re going to call this one a draw.
Tim Bresnan removed Samaraweera before tea to break the partnership which was threatening to take the game away from England, but the key wicket was Jayawardene’s. In Galle he shepherded the tail from 170/6 to 318 all out and with both Angelo Mathews and Prasana Jayawardene to help him along at the P Sara a big score was still on the cards. In the final over before the new ball Graeme Swann got one to really bite and trapped him in front. Asad Rauf teased England by taking an age over the decision but finally sent the skipper on his way. At the end of the first day of this ‘series’ England had reduced Sri Lanka to 289/8, but Jayawardene remained at the crease. Here they have fewer runs and really just Mathews to try to drag them past 300. That wicket, plus that of his namesake, may prove crucial as the game progresses.
If we were anything other than steadfastly professional we could copy and paste any ‘outlook’ from the end of any first day in any Test this winter into this section. Strauss’ record at the coin toss has been about as good as his batting and England have consistently put themselves in good positions with the ball only to blow it all as soon as they get bat in hand. Tomorrow they must finish off this innings and get themselves as close to parity as possible by close of play. So we fully expect Sri Lanka to be batting again by the time we write the next review.