Middle-order strength gives England control
England 342 for 6 (Prior 73*, Broad 17*) v Sri Lanka
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The opening day at Lord's, under glorious sunshine, was not the one-sided affair it might have been but England took the honours by reaching 342 for 6 having been put in and recovered impressively from losing three early wickets. Alastair Cook couldn't quite make it three consecutive Test hundreds, falling for 96, and Eoin Morgan departed for a confident 79, but Matt Prior was unbeaten at the close on a fluent 73.
It could have been so much better for Sri Lanka after they'd had the home side 22 for 3 in the eighth over. They struggled to maintain the pressure even though Suranga Lakmal put in a wholehearted display to claim 3 for 79 and Chanaka Welegedara, the left-armer, made the attack more potent. Cook and Ian Bell started the fight back with a fourth-wicket stand of 108, then Morgan joined to add 71 for the fifth before Cook top-edged a pull four runs short of his sixth hundred in nine Tests.
However, the real shift in momentum occurred while Morgan added 101 in 20 overs with Prior during the long final session as Sri Lanka started flagging. Morgan had been positive from the start, dancing down the pitch and launching Rangana Herath over the top, and later did the same to Tillakaratne Dilshan, but also showed good judgement and a solid defence.
The hallmark of his play was a crispness of footwork and clarity of shot. Such was his presence at the crease it came as a surprise when he fell lbw to the second new-ball after Sri Lanka successfully used the DRS. However, it had been an important innings for Morgan and his first significant Test score since the hundred he made against Pakistan at Trent Bridge. That, too, came when England were in some trouble and the challenge brings the best out of him.
Prior, meanwhile, transformed an uncertain 201 for 5 into a far more stable position. It was a typically positive innings peppered with well-timed off-side shots. His fifty came from just 63 balls, although he was fed some friendly offerings ahead of the new ball, and also when it was taken as he hammered a weary Lakmal for three boundaries in five deliveries. And England's depth was on show again as Stuart Broad, playing his first Test innings since being Peter Siddle's hat-trick victim in Brisbane, finished on 17 in another useful stand.
Ultimately, Sri Lanka will struggle to convincingly argue that bowling first was a success and the general feeling was that Dilshan's decision owed a large amount to the fear of what England's bowlers could do to his shell-shocked batsmen after they were humbled for 82 in Cardiff rather a true belief it was the best thing to do. Yet, after eight overs he looked fully justified when Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and the out-of-form Kevin Pietersen were all back in the pavilion.
Strauss and Trott both fell lbw to Welegedara as both played around straight deliveries. At 18 for 2 it presented the sort of challenge that would normally get Pietersen's juices flowing, but instead it became his second failure of the series as he avoided having to face any left-arm spin when he drove loosely to gully for 2 off Lakmal. It was careless batting against the new ball on a green-tinged pitch that was always going to be at its trickiest in the first session.
England, though, are not easily broken these days and set about rebuilding the innings. It needed a fair degree of luck, especially on Bell's behalf as he kept the slip cordon interested with a series of edges, but enough came out of the middle to show conditions were far from hostile. Cook and Bell both reached their fifties in quick succession, but just as Sri Lanka were starting to look flat Welegedara returned to claim his second when Bell fished outside off and an edge finally carried to first slip.
Welegedara, who was a surprise omission in Cardiff, showed the value of having a left-arm seamer because the change of angle gave the England batsmen something else to contend with. However, while he and Lakmal were wholehearted and incisive, the support was lacking and allowed England to build fresh momentum.
Cook started to find his groove after battling through the morning session and tucked into a poor spell from Dilhara Fernando with a series of pulls and cuts. He seemed destined for his 18th Test century, but was cramped for room when he tried to pull Fernando. The way England's batsmen donated their wickets won't please Andy Flower, but it's also a further sign of the team's confidence when they can be below their best and still find a way to come out on top.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo