England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 1st day May 26, 2011

A damp homecoming for England

A combination of a wet start and a slow pitch meant a tough opening day for England

Andrew Strauss said on the eve of the match that the time for a glorious homecoming had long since past, and sure enough, the start of the first Test since England's Ashes triumph was a spectacular anticlimax, entirely befitting a team whose Sydney celebrations had been curtailed by a hungover coach trip to Canberra.

The most glorious start to an English summer in generations was entirely lost on the weather in Wales, which started revolting, and slowly descended into cruelty, as the morning rain threatened to abate every once in a while, before returning with a vengeance to postpone the start again and again. The toss, when it took place at 2.15pm was a farce, with such a violent squall wafting in after Sri Lanka's correct call that players, presenters and camera crews alike were effectively blown clean off the square, as play was delayed by a further 75 minutes.

In the circumstances, therefore, to chisel 48 overs out of a day that was pushed back by four-and-a-half hours was a pretty impressive effort, as the late evening sunshine did its best to atone for what had gone before. For England's bowlers, however, it was a tough and uncompromising workout, as they encountered on their return to red-ball cricket a pair of batsmen in Tharanga Paranavitana and Tillakaratne Dilshan whose own preparations had involved a double-century partnership against the England Lions in Derby.

As Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann discovered to their cost in Colombo, Sri Lanka's batsman have a ball-by-ball mentality that translates across formats without a glitch. If there was an assumption that the disciplines of Test cricket would lure them into a rash of loose swipes, a la Umar Akmal and his Pakistan team-mates last summer, it was quashed by the steadfast approach of Paranavitana, whose unbeaten 58 contained 122 dot balls and just six boundaries, five of which were emphatic.

The scalping of two late wickets ensured the day's honours ended more or less even, while the frisson of controversy that existed when Kumar Sangakkara was adjudged caught-behind on review was quickly doused when Dilshan conceded that the edge had been conclusive. All in all, therefore, this first day had the feel of a dress rehearsal, albeit one that left little reason to doubt the stage-presence of either side.

"I thought to be honest we started pretty well, considering that we spent most of the day in the dressing room," said James Anderson, whose seven overs for seven before tea would might well have made dents in the Pakistan top-order last summer, although when you recall just how fragile their batting had been, that is hardly a ringing endorsement. He was waspish and energetic, and clearly refreshed after the travails of the World Cup. But for all three of England's seamers, there was a certain snap still lacking.

"It is sometimes hard to get yourself up for that start time, but I thought we did brilliantly that first hour, and we could have got a couple of wickets," said Anderson. "We beat the bat a few times, but there a few bad balls, one too many in certain periods, and they put them away well. Generally I thought we asked a lot of questions of the batsmen, but they played pretty well, left well, and it will be a hard contest tomorrow and further into the game."

Still, there's only so much to be read into this truncated first-day performance. As expected, the Cardiff wicket tended towards the docile, with Stuart Broad's short-ball attack offering little prospect of reward, despite the aggressive intentions of three slips, a short leg and leg gully. Anderson reckoned there was more life than he'd expected, though having been put to the sword by Australia's 674 for 6 on this surface two years ago, he came into the game with good reason to be pessimistic. "If you bend your back you get something out of the pitch," he said. "It's a good cricket wicket."

A crowd of roughly 6000 turned out to watch the team in their first match of the new season, with one in three of the pre-booked punters deciding it wasn't a day for watching cricket. Better weather is in prospect for the latter stages of the game, so England - and their season - can aim to start again. "The crowd was pretty good considering the weather," said Anderson. "It was a really good support out there, a good atmosphere considering it's cold and wet, so we can't complain."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on May 29, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    @yorkslanka "i find it very poor and quite insulting that this first test match was held at cardiff..every team touring england in the past is hosted at lords for the first test so why are we treated like the poor beggars looking for crumbs." I totally agree with you. But it shows the superiority complex mentality of the Brits that lurks in everything they do.This is reflected in the arrogant mentality of the British fans and media, especially if some Brit comments on cricinfo are anything to go by.Their lack of respect to SL is disgusting despite the fact SL have been WC finalists last 2 times done well in test cricket. Even Australia despite their shortcomings, always gave Sri Lanka their best venues. Like MCG or SCG. Surely two of the best cricket grounds in the world. Australia always showed more respect to Sri Lanka than the Brits ever did. Then the Brits moan and wonder why the whole world, not just Sri Lanka dislikes them so much. Go Sri Lanka!

  • Nilantha on May 27, 2011, 14:58 GMT

    @paul power & elliot tree...ok my bad, fair enough my mistake...Paul, at least you would have had lots of seats to choose from if you didnt like yours :-) Good day for us so far, would like to see us bat the day out if possible but i dont think we will manage...Glad to see Prasanna get some runs as a lot of people have criticised his inclusion but i do rate him...This is the last batting pair we have so a partnership here is crucial...Why is kp not being bowled?surely he is a better option than trott( would fancy some of that myself tomorrow afternoon :-)!!)

  • Paul on May 27, 2011, 9:26 GMT

    "every team touring england in the past is hosted at lords for the first test so why are we treated like the poor beggars looking for crumbs"

    Except, you know, Australia (whose last Test series here also started at Cardiff). And Pakistan (started at Trent Bridge). Or many series in the past where Lord's was later in the series. You'll get your Test there soon enough.

    While I admit it's a concern that there aren't going to be any Tests further north than Nottingham this summer, as someone who lives in Wales I'm quite happy to see Tests come to Cardiff: in fact yesterday my family booked some tickets for Saturday.

  • Anjana on May 27, 2011, 8:44 GMT

    Cardiff is not a decent place to host a test at international level. Forget the rain, the scoreboard wasn't working for the whole day. At one end, a white cloth covering spectator seats was the side screen and the unevenness of the cloth distracted Mahela as well. I find it as an insult to SL as England has got lot quality venues than Cardiff to hold a test!

  • Elliott on May 27, 2011, 8:42 GMT

    @yorkslanka: I wouldn't defend the choice of Cardiff for the first Test of an English Summer (the weather's likely to be awful and they seem to prepare slow, dull pitches); but it is not due to disrespect for SL. The 1st Ashes Test in 2009 was in Cardiff - and you know how everyone in England considers the Ashes to be the most important thing in the world ;o)

  • Kalindu on May 27, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    @Antonia : You are not updated properly by cricket news seems to be. Dilahara was unable to play due to a knee injury. So before open your mouth just try to find about the actual scenario. Take Care

  • Nilantha on May 27, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    i find it very poor and quite insulting that this first test match was held at cardiff..every team touring england in the past is hosted at lords for the first test so why are we treated like the poor beggars looking for crumbs..Cardiff should not even be hosting a test when there are great grounds like old trafford and headingley being overlooked..the fact that the stands were half empty shows that this was the wrong choice for the match...

  • Anton on May 27, 2011, 3:59 GMT

    It is extremely cruel and unfair that Dilhara fernando is not selected. This guy can bowl at 150 kPh and England batsmen were scred of him. He played so well in the previous match yet not to get selected. Other bowlers are young and good but there speed is not enough to shake them. In my view Sri lanka will struggle with fast bowling. Stupid selectors and captain. They cannnot win this game gdoing such unfair things. They will loose.

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2011, 2:19 GMT

    Sanga and Mahela are not Performing so far. By the end of the series we will see whether they catch up. We are disgusted they gave priority to the IPL than the country which resulted them been very very rusty. Hats off to Paranavithana and Dilshan who have been rock steady. If only Dilshan stayed on. Now the hopes will be on Samaraweera and Paranavithana. Good first day SL.

  • Mark on May 26, 2011, 22:46 GMT

    This is a good start by Sri Lanka. The cold May Conditions in the United Kingdom are tough for batting and getting your eye in. Now they should build on this tomorrow and graft like they did today. Should aim to get to 350 and then kick on to 500 which would a wonderful achievement for the Sri Lanka bats if they can do it. I believe they are certainly capable of doing so. Best of luck Sri Lanka for tomorrow.

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