Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day March 26, 2012

Mahela Jayawardene resists England push


Sri Lanka 289 for 8 (Jayawardene 168*, Anderson 3-56) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A masterful century from Mahela Jayawardene helped Sri Lanka fight back against England on the first day of the first Test in Galle. Jayawardene, unbeaten on 168 at stumps, batted for all but two overs of a hot and humid day to ensure his side were not completely overwhelmed. None of his colleagues made more than 27 and between them, they contributed just 111.

Both sides will reflect on a day of missed opportunities. While England - with the notable exception of Monty Panesar - were impressive in the field, Sri Lanka may well come to rue that a series of batsmen played a part in their own downfall. Two of them were run out, one was caught at cover as he attempted a slog-sweep that reeked of inexperience and at least one more was drawn into driving at a delivery he would have been better served leaving well alone. England applied the pressure expertly, but Sri Lanka proved more brittle than expected.

England, meanwhile, will regret four missed chances off Jayawardene - the two from Panesar almost comical - and a failure to finish off the innings much earlier. At 191 for 7, a total of 300 should have proved beyond Sri Lanka. Such profligacy could come back to haunt England.

If it does, it will be largely thanks to Jayawardene. Only seven men have scored more than his 30 Test centuries, but he would have been frustrated at his colleagues' failure to take advantage of winning the toss. It should have proved invaluable: on a pitch that is already offering a surprising amount of assistance for the spinners and is expected to deteriorate further.

Jayawardene deserved better. With his patience, his shot selection, his concentration and his technique, he provided the perfect example for his team-mates to follow. Three times he came down the wicket to thump sixes over long-on - once off James Anderson and twice off Graeme Swann - though generally he contented himself with waiting for the poor ball and putting it away with clinical precision.

England did allow him four moments of fortune, however. When he had 64, Anderson was unable to cling on to a desperately tough chance at first slip off the bowling of Swann (Sri Lanka would have been 138 for 6 had it been taken) before, on 90, Anderson missed a much more straightforward chance off his own bowling.

Then came two moments of vintage Panesar. Jayawardene, on 147, pulled directly to him at backward square and Panesar parried the ball for four. Worse was to follow. Panesar dropped a much simpler chance at mid-on off Stuart Broad when the batsman had 152. It provided a reminder of why Panesar, for all his skill as a bowler, has spent so much of his career on the outskirts of the international team.

At first it appeared Sri Lanka might be blown away as they lost three wickets in the first four overs. Lahiru Thirimanne became Anderson's 250th Test wicket in the bowler's 67th Test - he is just the sixth England bowler to reach the milestone - as he prodded at one angled across him, before Kumar Sangakkara suffered the third first-ball dismissal of his Test career after he was drawn into a loose drive. Broad then took the edge of Tillakaratne Dilshan's bat with a beauty that bounced and left him off the seam.

Thilan Samaraweera was run out backing up after the bowler, Anderson, managed to lay a hand on a fierce return drive from Mahela Jayawardene only to see the ball deflect on to the stumps at the bowler's end. It was, some might say, an unfortunate end to a promising innings, though Samaraweera was backing up unnecessarily far.

Dinesh Chandimal, meanwhile, presented Samit Patel - preferred to Ravi Bopara (whose side strain would have prohibited him from bowling) or Tim Bresnan - with a maiden Test wicket as he miscued an ugly slog-sweep to cover and miscued to cover. It was the shot of a young man who had almost forgotten the art of batting for long periods of time; not surprising, perhaps, when you consider that he has not batted in first-class cricket since the first week of January.

Then Suraj Randiv, looking quite comfortable and with a role to fulfil in supporting his captain, was run out by a direct hit from Andrew Strauss. It was a marvellous bit of work from England's captain, who threw from about point, but it was another piece of sloppy cricket from a Sri Lankan side that has barely had time to draw breath after tours to South Africa, Australia and then Bangladesh. Not that Randiv, perhaps guilty of over enthusiasm, could use that excuse: he has been playing first-class cricket in Sri Lanka.

With Herath, too, departing to an unnecessary sweep, only Prasanna Jayawardene could consider himself blameless. He fell victim to a wicked reverse-swinging inducker from Anderson.

There were concerns that England would miss a third quick, but the polished performance of their frontline bowlers - and the fragility of the Sri Lankan batting - suggested the selectors' gamble had been vindicated.

Anderson, in particular, was excellent. Gaining conventional swing with the new ball and reverse swing with the old, he scarcely bowled a loose ball throughout and, when he took the wicket of Prasanna Jayawardene, he drew level with Brian Statham on 252 Test wickets. Only four England bowlers - Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Fred Trueman and Derek Underwood - have more.

Patel could also reflect with pleasure on his first day of Test cricket. While both frontline spinners went wicketless, Patel struck twice. He is not the biggest turner of the ball, but he bowls straight with just enough variation to keep the batsmen honest.

Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the lingering issue of his ankle injury, but Broad appeared to struggle as the day progressed and England will be uncomfortable with the speed that runs were leaked after they claimed the second new ball. While the pitch is far from a minefield, it is highly unlikely to grow any easier and England - fresh from their travails against Pakistan's spinners in the UAE - may struggle to shake the worry that they have squandered their best chance to take a firm grip on the series.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sai on March 29, 2012, 15:24 GMT

    @nandika - Sanga has scored all over the world, true. But, recently he scored 511 runs against Pakistan in 3 tests at an average of 86 in 2011. In 2011 itself, in the series' against England in Eng and South Africa in SA, he averaged 30.66 and 30.00 respectively. An average of 30 is just not good enough, which is why he is called a flat track bully. Maybe you can call Samaraweera a real lion, as he averaged 50 in SA and 80 in England.

  • Sharon on March 28, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    @rahulcricket007. Ok man. I like your reply! Everyone love Test cricket yes? I see your enthusiasm very Indian. I change my opinion - maybe you good guy afterall. Let us talk cricket in future.

  • Nandika on March 28, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    @3liteindia im not talking about mahela talking about sangakkara.look at his records.centuries doubles centuries all over the world.he played well in aus and SA he is not a flat track bully.he is one of the greats batsman now in world cricket.why still we are telling don bradman as greatest batsman of all time.because of his batting not think about his hundreds.34 hudress but they most valuable ones

  • John on March 27, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    @rahulcricket007 on (March 27 2012, 01:15 AM GMT) but you haven't stopped making such predictions have you? Also you say you love test cricket. Then you'll know that the disastrous tour of India by Eng was purely ODI's with 1 T20.

  • John on March 27, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    @ Trickstar on Sorry , but I disagree. This is not the England side that were scoring big against India last summer and there did seem to be a bit of bounce off the pitch for the spinners. It's not a case of having a short memory re Bell , it's doing what I feel is best for the team. It's ok if one player is struggling as badly as Bell is and the rest of the batsmen are consistently performing but they are not. Dravid was immense for India vs Eng last summer but absolutely shot vs Aus leading to his retirement and surely if we're talking about earning the right to stay he earnt it much more than Bell. It's nothing personal against Bell, it's just that he was the one player who has shown no glimpse of form this year and IMO we don't have the batsman who could come in and do a job under these circumstances and we need to at least try a 5 man bowling attack.

  • Gareth on March 27, 2012, 8:52 GMT

    @Spelele Well, well, well. While a laboured South African attack fail to bowl New Zealand out, the news is that Eng are busy blasting the Sri Lankans out on the other side of the world. The best swing bowler in the world (Anderson) is causing havoc on flat pitches in SL, while the ordinary green track bullies of South Africa are huffing and puffing down under. Settles the 'best attack in the world' debate I suppose. Can't wait to wallop the Saffas come June.

  • Laksiri on March 27, 2012, 4:08 GMT

    1 for 11,2 for 11 and Dilshan fell when he reached 11 initially put England on the driving seat. Then they failed to get the fielding basics correct.All in all it's a mixed bag for both teams:catches missed, Samaraweera's dismissals and run out. Sri Lankans had their higher share of luck. With the turning pitch, pray for lord-Nelson,not for the glory of any king/s. Nice to hear historical golden voice in the commentary box again. We need a a decision after five long days play.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2012, 3:12 GMT

    Wooooow! maiya... that was awesome. I feel that you have changed the whole complexion of the game.

  • John on March 27, 2012, 3:03 GMT

    I don't really count the chance on 64 as a drop because it was too difficult. Anderson's drop with Jayawardene on 90 cost England 57 runs, although c&b are always a bit more difficult than the equivalent catch to a regular fielder. Monty's drops have cost England 21 runs so far. I take a little comfort from the fact that England has a stroke of luck to dismiss Samaraweera. If England bat well then this game is still very much in the balance. You'd back England to get a decent lead back home but obviously this is a very different situation.

  • Alagu on March 27, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    Being an Indian, it is both funny and little embarrassing to see some comments posted by my fellow countrymen.. praise the guys who perform, mahela in this case, who has single-handedly prevented his side from a downfall.. don't bring in sachin into everything.. i mean everything!! he himself wouldn't like it.. i don't understand why do we always have to prove that our batsmen are the best.. if they are the best, they could have at least drawn a test in england and aussies.. did they?? seems you guys are just living in denial just like our cricket board.. right now, we don't have a great team.. Deal with it !!

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