Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
ZIM v WI (1)
WI 4-Day (2)
Super Smash (1)
Super Smash (W) (1)
Sri Lanka 229 for 4 (Mathews 107*, Dickwella 19*) vs England
Day one at Galle was a battle of attrition between the most-experienced players from either side.
James Anderson, masterful with the new ball, miserly with the old, claimed two wickets in his third over of the day to have Sri Lanka tottering at 7 for 2, before nicking off another batsman the over after lunch. He bowled with near supernatural control throughout, probing incessantly outside that off stump, extracting swing and seam where he could, but ensuring that his overs were like a closed fist if not - giving nothing away. Of his 19 overs, 10 were maidens; his economy rate down at 1.26. Although Sri Lanka rarely scored quickly (on a flatter surface than had been in evidence during the first Test), no other bowler was anywhere near as good. Mark Wood took England's only other wicket.
But as earnestly as Anderson toiled, it was Angelo Mathews' arm-wrestle of a hundred that most imposed itself on the day. Mathews was respectful of Anderson, but quelled Wood's pace to excellent effect, frequently taking on the short ball, even when Wood was operating near 150kph/93mph. The spinners barely bothered Mathews at all on a track that is yet to take even slight turn. Mathews batted out many quiet periods, hitting only 11 fours off his 228 balls, but at no stage did he seem rushed. The focus was on batting time - keeping England in the field, allowing the sun to fall on this pitch and the wind to dry it out so that when England go in to bat the surface might offer something. Completed in the last hour of play to muted celebrations, this was his 11th Test hundred, and first in Galle. He finished 107 not out.
Through the course of the day, Mathews struck up three productive partnerships. The first was with Lahiru Thirimanne, Sri Lanka's centurion from the first Test. In the early going, Thirimanne was the more confident of the two batsmen as they attempted to rescue Sri Lanka from the possibility of another abysmal collapse. Thirimanne drove through the covers with confidence, and picked off the bowlers - particularly Wood and Sam Curran - who bowled too straight. He was on 43 at lunch - the first time he'd made successive 40-plus scores since 2015 - but was tempted into a stroke at an away-swinging Anderson ball soon after the break, which he edged to the wicketkeeper.
It was Mathews' partnership with Dinesh Chandimal, however, that was most beneficial for the team, the two ultimately putting on 117 for the fourth wicket, Chandimal making 52 of those runs. Like Mathews, Chandimal was unthreatened by the spinners, even coming down the track to launch Dom Bess down the ground for six midway through the second session. Against Wood, however, Chandimal was less comfortable, wearing several snorting short balls on the body, and occasionally being struck on the glove. He faced 26 Wood deliveries, before the bowler finally got him out with an angled ball that reversed into his pads, and struck him in front of middle stump. Chandimal reviewed the out decision, but the ball was shown to be crashing into leg. It was Wood's first wicket of the series, having had no reward in the first Test.
That wicket, which fell part way through the third session, was the last England would claim for the day. No. 6 batsman Niroshan Dickwella began his innings resolutely (by his standards at least), occasionally venturing an expansive drive, but largely choosing to follow Mathews' lead. The two played out seven overs of the second new ball without major incident, as both Anderson and Curran found swing through the air in the last half hour of play. Dickwella finished not out on 19 off 60, hitting only one four - a cover drive off Curran.
Although Sri Lanka may feel they had the better of the day, their slow progress (they scored at 2.63 runs across the 87 overs bowled), means England will still hope they can restrict Sri Lanka to a below-par total if they claim early wickets on Saturday. Chances are, though, their seamers will again have to provide the impetus for breakthroughs, this track having neutered spin so far.
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