England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Lord's, 1st day June 3, 2011

Sri Lanka toil after bright start

Marvan Atapattu, Sri Lanka's batting coach, admitted his bowlers had lost their grip after a flying start to the second Test at Lord's, but backed his rejigged attack to fight back in a crucial first hour on the second day.

After winning the toss under cloudless skies, Sri Lanka's captain, Tillakaratne Dilshan, sprang something of a surprise when he elected to bowl first, but his faith in his seamers was immediately justified as England slipped to 22 for 3 inside the day's first eight overs. Two further breakthroughs put Sri Lanka in charge after tea on 201 for 5, but Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior wrestled control back for England with a pair of flowing half-centuries.

"Up until tea, I thought we won the first two sessions, but we lost a bit of grip after the tea interval," said Atapattu. "Giving up 170 runs at 4.9 [an over] is not good enough having won the toss. But it was all about getting important early wickets in the morning. We lost momentum in the last session but it doesn't mean we can't come back into the game."

Although England's captain, Andrew Strauss, had hinted he might also have bowled first, Sri Lanka's decision seemed to have been influenced by their capitulation in the final session at Cardiff, where they were bowled out for 82 in 24.4 overs. Atapattu, however, insisted that with the quality of batting in his team's top-order, this was not the case, as shown by the decision not to add an extra batsman to the line-up.

"At this level you can't keep hiding people," he said. "We have three batsmen [Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera] - ranked in first ten in the ICC rankings. It was just one of those bad days that we experienced in Cardiff, and we have to put that behind us and move forward.

"The brand of cricket Sri Lanka plays is to win, and that's the reason we have six batsmen and five bowlers here," he said. "When we had [Chaminda] Vaas and [Muttiah] Muralitharan we could rely on them to take wickets, but now we have the young brigade and we have given them the extra bowler. We play to win and hopefully this will turn out to be one of those important games for us."

Sri Lanka's aggression looked set to be rewarded when England's top order fell cheaply to Suranga Lakmal and Chanaka Welegedara, and Atapattu bought into the sense of optimism on the field. "At tea I thought 300 is a good total, and thought we can make those runs, go past, and get a lead. Now that Prior has batted well, and our bowlers perhaps didn't bowl the lines they wanted to, we missed a trick or two. It now looks like under 400 would be good."

In addition to the left-armer Welegedara, Sri Lanka recalled the hostile Dilhara Fernando, who had been ruled out of the Cardiff Test with knee trouble. He extracted Alastair Cook via a loose pull on 96, and bowled 13 overs in the day, but none with in the closing stages of the day while his team-mates were toiling. Atapattu, however, brushed off any injury concerns, and said that the decision had been tactical.

"Fernando is basically not a line and length bowler," said Atapattu. "He can hurry the batsmen, and we use him to disturb the batsmen in terms of rhythm, but he's not a Welegedara or a Lakmal. He's not been a new-ball bowler."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shehan on June 4, 2011, 18:45 GMT

    @Ankur Srivastava: guess what !!! The tough times are already a thing of the past as you should have a good look at the score card of the 2nd days play.. Btw don't ever doubt about SLanka's future as we have an excellent grooming system which many talented school boy cricketers come through to the club levels and the development squad levels with talents that even with ur huge one billion and still counting population cannot come up with.

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    2nd test::::Everyone in cricinfo laughed when Sangakkara said "we play bounce better than other subcontinent teams". But NOW LOOK dilshan hammering everyone. All english getting help from pitch , pace and movement...G.Swann getting turn like murali-warne as he got in the 1st test 5th day . But Dilshan dominating.....

    At least Srilanka play bounce better than India

  • Randika on June 4, 2011, 12:12 GMT

    @Ankur Srivastava: Sri Lanka demise? My friend, you may dream on1 But your Indian dream will not see realized for certain. Sri Lanka is in a transitional phase and will take some time to fully settle. But the philosophy is correct and that is to include young players and to give them a consistent run. this is why Sri lanka have denied Chaminda Vaas an opportunity in limited overs, despite him still being in good form. Sri Lanka has the highest number of centrally contracted players in the world (100 contracts in 5 different layers) despite not being a very rich board. So the talent pool at the very top is large and diverse and the "best school cricket system in the world" will keep on turning out more raw talent for SLC to groom!

  • Finn on June 4, 2011, 10:35 GMT

    It's just a transition phase, same as the Aussies. They've lost world class performers and they expect to find some more straight away, it won't happen that easily. You just have to be patient and give the new guys chance to settle in

  • Prbath on June 4, 2011, 8:48 GMT

    @PremasiriS, dude check the stats of top 5 batsmen of srilanka and compare them with England top 5, you will see the different, England have only one with average over 50 (trott) but he is not even played 25 test yet, so cant count that, and check the srilanken top 5 apart from paranavithana all others far away head and they are pleasing to eye rather than boring English batmen,

  • Sarath on June 4, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    E'land always plays batsmen of good technique & bowlers of good discipline. It's very rare to find a batsman the likes of Tr'thick in their playingXI. English selectors have never sought excuses to drop a good player that is why b'men like P'sons,T'tts&M'gans could find places in the Eng'h team. In contrast the SL s'tors of last12 ys.,( but not Dulip the present chairman of selectors)are as such, they have always preferred boundary hitters, they aren't bothered about the manner the batsmen gather his runs, number of chances they offer & risky (edgy, lofted)strokes through the hands of fielders. The number of false (plays& misses) strokes they play& indecisive application due to lack of foot work & slow reflexes are quite irrelevant as well. If a batsman scores 1 big hundred out of 10innings, he is allowed to be in the team as long as he wishes. Consistent (promising) Performers (who can be threat to seniors)'ve no place though; average players could easily get into the playing XI.

  • Hashan on June 4, 2011, 3:04 GMT

    @Ankur Srivastava.dont talk about things u dont know......it's just a matter of time.when younsters like chandimal,suranga lakmal,nuwan pradeep,mathews gets some experience well hav a gud team.u can clearly see the difference of suranga lakmal in 1st test and 2nd test.....when he get 10 matches hell be gud.

  • Dummy4 on June 3, 2011, 21:02 GMT

    I fear SL similar demise as WI, ZIM had, it's not a good news for cricket fraternity. Mahela and sanga has few years in the side, dilshan has just experienced bad start as a captain and has to tread a long way. One thing is proved that sanath, vaas and murali exit had left a big chink in their armour. Their fighting ability is now a thing of past, they have big task ahead. Tough times for them, hope they overcome soon.

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