Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Colombo, 1st day April 3, 2012

Jayawardene century keeps England at bay


Sri Lanka 238 for 6 (Jayawardene 105, Samaraweera 54, Anderson 3-52) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Mahela Jayawardene, an understated batsman in a world that long ago surrendered to overstatement, treated England to another gentle batting masterclass with a second successive Test century to ensure Sri Lanka maintained a position close to equilibrium at the close of the first day of the second Test.

Jayawardene exuded calm, recapturing the mood that brought him 180 in the first Test in Galle, with 105 stealthily assembled in more than five hours before Graeme Swann, straightening one from around the wicket, had him lbw, a decision upheld on review, and the slightest rustle of disbelief arose around the P Sara Oval at a rare misjudgement in an unblemished innings.

England dismissed Jayawardene with the second new ball imminent. They took it for the last nine overs and plucked out a sixth wicket when Steven Finn had Mahela's namesake, Prasanna Jayawardene, caught at the wicket.

It was a reward for another disciplined bowling display, in which an increasingly resilient Finn proved he can now share, but the pitch already has a mosaic of cracks and, even allowing for its stultifying lack of pace, there is already ample evidence of uneven bounce and turn for the spinners. That will be enough to keep England's sense of well-being in check.

Four successive Test defeats in Asia have encouraged ever-more defiant noises from England about how they must maintain their energy and trust their attacking instincts. Jayawardene showed them a different route, cajoling the Test gently towards him, displaying the virtues of patience and delicacy as his innings murmured along. He survived a drinks break on 99, removed his helmet to reveal his distinctive black head-covering and then clipped Samit Patel wristily wide of mid-on for his 31st Test century.

James Anderson gave England a flying start with three new-ball wickets in his first five overs, dismissing Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara in successive balls, but Jayawardene flicked the hat-trick ball to the fine leg boundary to get off the mark and, as determinedly as England tried to stem the flow of runs off his legs, settled in for the duration.

It was a sweltering day in Colombo with not as much relief from the gentle sea breezes that had been apparent in Galle; April, the month before the Yala monsoon finally breaks, when wealthier Colombo families head to the hills in search of relief and when to commit to any physical exertion was once regarded as akin to madness.

There was a time in his career when Anderson would have melted into insignificance in such conditions, cursing a slow pitch and the hot, viscous air, but these days he is a connoisseur of fast bowling and once again he rhythmically dismantled Sri Lanka's top order. There was enough inconsistent bounce to sustain him and he caressed the new ball with the recognition that once it softened life would become much more onerous.

England had taken three Sri Lanka wickets for 15 and fewer in Galle and still lost, a statistic that it has been suggested is unique in Test history. It has been the same all winter for England: skilful, disciplined bowling followed by comedic batting. Anderson took his wickets with the air of a bowler who had come to understand that it guaranteed nothing.

Dilshan briefly flared, driving Anderson for successive offside boundaries. But Anderson compensated, yanked his length back a touch, Dilshan dabbled outside off stump and Matt Prior took a neat catch.

Sangakkara fell first ball, just as he had in the first innings in Galle, Anderson producing a perfect line and the edge flying to first slip where Strauss fumbled by his midriff but clawed the rebound back with his left hand. Strauss has entered the Test under the most pressure since he was appointed England's captain three years ago: it was not the day to drop it.

Anderson's third wicket, an ungainly leave-alone from Lahiru Thirimanne, with the decision, this time by the Australian Bruce Oxenford, again upheld on review, fleetingly took his average in his 68th Test below 30 for the first time since his debut summer nine years ago. By the close, it had crept beyond 30 once more, but it was a statistical reminder of his development.

Jayawardene peacefully rebuilt the innings, in partnership with Thilan Samaraweera, but England had a lucky mascot to sustain them. Tim Bresnan, playing his first Test of the winter after England omitted Monty Panesar, has been on the winning side in ten previous Tests and he found a hint of reverse swing to have Samaraweera lbw.

England made good use of the bouncer against Samaraweera, on a lifeless but uneven pitch. He was struck on the side of the helmet by Finn as he ducked a short ball that failed to get up. He looked briefly disorientated and England might have benefited from one of several ill-judged singles when Finn's shy from mid-on could have run him out.

But tension at the end of an unsuccessful winter had been evident in the response of Andy Flower, England's team director, when Samaraweera, on 34, survived a DRS appeal for a catch at short leg as a short ball from Steve Finn struck his thigh pad and found its way to Alastair Cook.

The not-out decision by umpire Asad Rauf was upheld after a lengthy delay, and innumerable replays, by the third umpire, Rod Tucker. There was no concrete evidence to overrule Rauf's decision, however much there might have been suspicions of a hint of glove, but that did not stop Flower visiting the TV umpire's room for an explanation and the cameras caught that, too, with his ill grace apparent.

Flower is not averse to a visit to the umpire's room during play to press his case, although perhaps not as blatantly as his predecessor, Duncan Fletcher, whose psychological gambits can occasionally be of a style that would even make Sir Alex Ferguson take note.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on April 4, 2012, 21:44 GMT

    @ IndnCrktfan on (April 04 2012, 13:47 PM GMT) Problem is that these are such short series and all our batsmen have been mediocre at best but mostly awful throughout the UAE tests and the 1st test and I just think 4 test defeats in a row is too big a price to pay for trying to get the batsmen back into form and surely Monty deserved to start this match more than Bell and KP did if we're going on current form. I suppose it's not nice to drop a batsman but then surely it can't be that nice for Monty either - at least the batsmen can't say why me after I batted so well in UAE

  • Subash on April 4, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    @Cannuck: Its funny that you mention as if you read carefully not only in this post but many other posts as well, it's many non-indian fans who like to bring India even when India is not playing. Further we all comment as fans of cricket and then respond to those who take pleasur in bashing us. I am sure u will agree that no one takes as much critic or negative comments as much as Indian cricketers do. It's natural for cricket fans to comment even when their nations are not involved. Take a look at all the comments that were posted by non Indian fans or non-ENG fans when India lost to ENG 4-0. Same when India lost to AUS 4-0, just look at how happy the world was. I am sure you were one of them as well. I can go back and dig those out. Its the case of people living in the glass house throwing stones at others and not expect others to do the same. Why r u not saying the same about other country fans who also have commented here as well. Check and see -ve comments rgrding IPL then tell me

  • Subash on April 4, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    @JG: I agree with your comments but IMO Bell is a fantastic player and unfortunately in a short series like this it takes time for players, no matter how good they are, to get adjusted to the conditions. I also agree that KP is dur for a big score or else his position in the team should be questioned.

  • John on April 4, 2012, 11:03 GMT

    @jmcilhinney on (April 04 2012, 04:20 AM GMT) Eng probably wanted to make provisions for the ball turning more that they thought it would on such a track. After dropping Monty you don't want KP to be your 2nd spinning option if Swann is doing something with the ball. Also is Ravi that much better (if at all) than Patel with the bat? All the talent is there but I don't remember him doing it when our backs are against the wall

  • Phil on April 4, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    @Rooboy: yeah shame we've only got Jimmy who couldn't bowl out your lot in the last Ashes, and you're lucky to have Harris, Hilf & Sid who ran through our line up.

  • udara on April 4, 2012, 6:51 GMT

    Plat track or whatever Mahela is a master.

  • udara on April 4, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    Rangana hereth once again gave his wicket away.When will he learn.He has only one shot,slog over mid-wicket.Please send him no 11 next innings.

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2012, 5:52 GMT

    In 11 home Tests against England, Jayawardene has scored six centuries and averages 90.66. In ten Tests in England, he averages 34.11.....flat track master....

  • j on April 4, 2012, 5:50 GMT

    Methinks RandyOz doesn't watch a lot of cricket. Certainly not over the last three years...LOL

  • Roo on April 4, 2012, 5:34 GMT

    "If" SL get close to 300 then Eng will need a 400+ to be in control this game... The pitch looks like it will be cracking up by day 3/4, so the best batting will be day 2/3... The green from early day 1 has gone & Eng need to clean up this tail quickly... Just saw Swann get his 3rd wkt so the new ball hasn't help the seamers... Looks like the match is turning into a spinners wrestle...

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