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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Atapattu forces England to work hard on opening day

Marvan Atapattu and Aravinda de Silva added 111 unbeaten runs for the third-wicket as Sri Lanka made the English bowlers toil in a sweltering evening session. At the close the pair had taken the score to 221-2, after Sri Lanka made good use of winning an important toss.

The English bowlers stuck to their task with admirable tenacity, Caddick bowling 10 maidens out of his 16 overs in the day, but they found little help in the pitch, and from Sri Lankan batsmen determined to give nothing away.

Caddick: Gave nothing awayPhoto CricInfo

With the ball expected to turn more as the match progresses, the toss took on great significance. England did strike early though, with Sanath Jayasuriya falling victim to Gough. He hit three fours in his breezy 14 run innings, two of which were to his favoured area on the square boundary. The punching, forcing shot brings him many runs, but it can also lead to his downfall. It did today as Craig White, one of two well set gullies, pulled off a stinging two-handed catch in Gough's third over.

England could find little help from the placid surface in the morning session, as a stand between Atapattu and Sangakkara provided Sri Lanka with the early initiative. At lunch they were 70-1, bringing the 100 up shortly afterwards, in the 36th over without further loss.

With the pitch providing little help for the seamers, England quickly turned to the spin of Robert Croft and Ashley Giles. The pair immediately spun the ball and will surely bowl the lion's share of the overs.

Ashley Giles came close to taking the wicket of Atapattu. The steady right-hander tried to flick the spinner to leg and the ball ballooned up to Graeme Hick at slip. Umpire Peter Manuel turned down the appeal, however, a decision that was confirmed as correct by TV replays.

Another appeal, off Croft in the 23rd over, for a stumping against Atapattu, was referred to the television umpire, who revealed the batsman was safely within his ground.

Kumar Sangakkara, the left-hander who scored 98 in his last Test against South Africa, timed the ball well and was the more free flowing of the two batsmen. His 50 came up in 90 balls, with four boundaries. Atapattu played the anchor role. He loves to bat for long periods (he already has three Test double centuries to his name) and will be looking for the others to bat around him. He began to play more expansive shots after tea, and finished the day 85 not out. However, Robert Croft struck an important blow for the tourists with the wicket of Sangakkara, caught at point as he came down the pitch to attack. He had scored 58 and put on 92 for the second wicket with Atapattu to leave the score 110-2.

In the final session Gough induced a cut to gully from de Silva, but Thorpe was unable to cling on to a difficult chance. Revitalised by the life, de Silva took the attack to the England bowlers and struck his first Test half-century for 12 months.

Earlier, England plumped for the experience of Graeme Hick (who made a century in his last Test against Sri Lanka) and omitted Vaughan from their XI. Deciding to field a balanced side of six batsmen, three fast bowlers and two spinners, Caddick was also retained to provide control.

Sri Lanka selected seven batsmen, thus including both the impressive Tillakaratne Dilshan and the experienced Aravinda de Silva. Nuwan Zoysa has been forced to pull out with 'flu, and is replaced by Dilhara Fernando. They opted for the off-spin of Kumar Dharmasena to partner Muttiah Muralitharan. This leaves them with an incredible five off-spinners in the side and Sanath Jayasuriya's left-arm orthodox for variation.

Duncan Fletcher was full of praise for the way the team reacted on a trying day: "The bowlers have done really well, and Nasser did a great job. He kept changing them around and changing the fielders around too," he told Sky Sports.

"On another day some of those half-chances and near misses might have been taken, and it would have been four or five down. We expected it to be difficult, and the bowlers just have to be disciplined as they have been today. I hope tomorrow we can go on and contain them again and get a few wickets."