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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali underpin dominant day for England

England 342 (Foakes 107, Dilruwan 5-75) and 38 for 0 (Jennings 26*, Burns 11*) lead Sri Lanka 203 (Mathews 52, Moeen 4-66) by 177 runs

England have never won a Test in Galle - they haven't won a Test away from home anywhere for two years - but, two days into this game, they have an excellent opportunity to put both those issues right.

It would be simplistic to suggest that Ben Foakes has earned them their dominant position over Sri Lanka. Simplistic but not untrue. For at the heart of almost everything good about this England performance to date has been the 25-year-old debutant who has taken to Test cricket as smoothly as he has taken every ball into his gloves.

He resumed on the second day 87 not out. Personal landmarks probably shouldn't have gained the status they have in a team game - Foakes had, after all, already ensured England had a competitive total having come to the crease with them teetering on 103 for 5 - but the fact is no England keeper had ever made a century in Asia and only one had made a century on Test debut. Even in a team game, these things matter. Especially when you're standing in for an injured player who is expected to be fit in a few days.

Despite easing the first delivery of the day through the covers for four - a typically sublime shot - it looked as if Foakes may be left just short of his century when Jack Leach was drawn into a back-foot push and edged to slip to give Dilruwan Perera his fifth wicket. Leach had taken a single from the fifth ball of the previous Suranga Lakmal over, putting him on strike against Dilruwan.

Foakes was still five short of the landmark when he was joined by England's No. 11, James Anderson. After watching Anderson survive a nerve-racking over from Perera - one ball was played agonisingly short of the packed slip cordon - Foakes decided to seize the moment and took the attack to Lakmal. He pulled the second ball of the over through backward square for four, then punched the fourth back past the bowler off the back foot - a high-class stroke by any standards - for another boundary to reach his hundred. To put his contribution in perspective, the next-highest score in the innings was 48 and only two men in the top five reached double-figures. Matt Prior is the only other England wicketkeeper to score a century on debut.

But that was only part of Foakes' job done. His primary role was still as a keeper. And, over the next few hours, he showed why Alec Stewart, his director of cricket at Surrey, rates him as the best in the world.

If his first dismissal - an outside edge offered by Dimuth Karunaratne as he poked at one that left him from James Anderson - was relatively straightforward, it was still significant. It came from just the second ball of the Sri Lanka innings and therefore equalled a record set by Australia's Peter Nevill for the earliest dismissal (in terms of deliveries) for a keeper on debut.

Better was to come. A defiant stand of 75 for the fifth wicket between Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal appeared to have put Sri Lanka on course after they had slumped to 40 for 4. But then Adil Rashid saw Chandimal advancing down the pitch, held the ball back just a little and saw it turn past the outside edge. Foakes whipped off the bails both quickly and neatly to become the first England keeper to complete a stumping in the first innings of their Test debut since Bob Taylor in 1971.

If it looked straightforward, it is worth remembering that England went three years between November 2012 and December 2015 without completing a stumping in Test cricket. Later he took an outstanding catch to see off Akila Dananjaya, poking at one that left him. Sometimes the very talented make the difficult appear deceptively easy.

In the end, Sri Lanka conceded a first-innings lead of 139. Almost every plan that England had came off: from Sam Curran taking the new ball for the first time - in his second over he swung one back to trap Kaushal Silva leg before - to the trio of spinners combining to claim eight wickets.

If Moeen Ali, who finished with 4 for 66 and passed John Emburey's tally of 147 Test victims (in 11 fewer Tests and almost 6000 fewer deliveries), was the most successful, Jack Leach lost nothing in comparison. The wicket of Kusal Mendis, drawn forward from round the wicket before the ball turned to kiss the edge of the bat, would have pleased Rangana Herath or any other left-arm spinner in Test history.

The key wicket of Mathews fell the ball after tea. Unfortunate to received one that bounced and turned, he gloved to short leg, having recording an assured half-century, before Niroshan Dickwella was lured into a loose drive and the tail fell to a succession of aggressive heaves. Herath, who had been given a guard of honour by the England team, was left unbeaten though you suspect he may have one more innings to play. By stumps, England had extended their lead to 177 with all 10 second-innings wickets intact.

England's most uncomfortable moment of the day came when Rory Burns, at short leg, was hit by a fierce sweep from Dickwella. Leaning forward, Burns ensured the ball did not hit his head but still took a painful blow on the upper back - just below the neck - and received several minutes of on-field treatment. An early tea was called and Burns spent an hour or so recovering in the dressing room, but had returned to the field before the end of the Sri Lanka innings.

Sri Lanka 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st51JK SilvaFDM Karunaratne
2nd8FDM KarunaratneDM de Silva
3rd39DM de SilvaBKG Mendis
4th46AD MathewsBKG Mendis
5th10AD MathewsLD Chandimal
6th36AD MathewsN Dickwella
7th7MDK PereraAD Mathews
8th32MDK PereraA Dananjaya
9th10MDK PereraRAS Lakmal
10th11HMRKB HerathRAS Lakmal