England edge attritional day - Finn
Steven Finn has waited a long time to get his place back in England's Test team but he probably wished it was on a nice green-top rather than the parched, slow surface that greeted him in Colombo.
However, despite England's recent problems with the batting there is one thing the last few months have confirmed for certain. The bowling attack does not shirk a challenge. Heads could easily have dropped after Andrew Strauss lost another toss, or as Mahela Jayawardene constructed another hundred, but the discipline they have shown almost without fail was in evidence throughout the day.
"As seamers we are all stupid enough to just run in every time the captain tosses you the ball," Finn said. "It's one of those things, you just have to suck it up and get on with it. I had a bit of cramp come the end of the day but that's part and parcel of fast bowling."
Finn, who last played a Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's, contributed 18 overs and although his figures do not stand out like some of his recent one-day hauls he played an important role in the reshuffled attack which reverted to three quicks, Graeme Swann and the support of Samit Patel's left-arm spin.
Finn highlighted the qualities he can bring to the line-up in a testing burst against Thilan Samaraweera who firstly survived a review for a catch at short leg and was then struck on the helmet when he failed to avoid a well-directed bouncer. It was a blow that shook Samaraweera: "For a few moments I wasn't sure what had happened," he said.
England, though, were convinced they had removed him on 36 when the ball looped to Alastair Cook under the helmet. "I said to Straussy I heard two noises and was pretty sure it was glove then thigh pad," Finn said. "Such is life it didn't get given and we didn't let it affect us. We kept plugging away, the worst thing we could have done is get pent up about the decision."
In the dressing room there was, perhaps, a little less calm response as Andy Flower, the team director, was seen making a quick visit to the umpires' room to clarify the decision. "Andy is passionate about English cricket and winning and I'm sure it wasn't anything out of the ordinary," Finn said. "The downside of not having Hot Spot is there's no conclusive evidence. We just have to get on with it."
England's rewards came late in the day as Sri Lanka lost Mahela Jayawardene moments before the new ball was taken and Prasanna Jayawardene, edging Finn to the wicketkeeper, shortly before the close. When England were not taking wickets, such as during the 124-run stand between Mahela Jayawardene and Samaraweera, they did not allow the run-rate to escalate and, unlike in Galle last week, managed to maintain their intensity during the final session.
"The fact they did not really go anywhere, they are 230 off 90 overs, maybe swings it a little bit to our favour," Finn said. "I thought we played some good, attritional cricket and were very patient and we got our rewards towards the back end of the day. Jayawardene played very well and assessed the conditions excellently, but I thought that as a bowling unit we did good all day."
The leader in every sense, though, was James Anderson as he ended the day with 3 for 52 to follow his five-wicket haul in Galle. Finn, who made his Test debut in Bangladesh in 2009-10 in conditions not dissimilar to this during a series where Anderson was rested, was often seen sharing words with his senior team-mate at the end of his run.
"I've learnt a lot off Jimmy since I've come into the team, especially over the last 12 months," Finn said. "He's an exceptional bowler and as a young bowler you can look towards him and how he gets his wickets. He knows how to extract the maximum movement, nip, swing or whatever in any given conditions and to have him talking to me as I'm walking back to my mark helps me get my mindset right. I feel as though I'm learning all the time."
Edited by Alan Gardner
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo