Cook wicket puts SL in ascendancy

London-nticipation of a bountiful batting day at Lord’s came to naught for England as Sri Lanka took five wickets by tea in their most concerted bowling display of the series. Without Alastair Cook’s 85, England would have been in a sorry state and the departure of the England captain five minutes before tea, lbw to a delivery angled in from around the wicket by Nuwan Pradeep, confirmed Sri Lanka’s superiority.
Whether they could maintain that superiority until the close would rest to a large extent on Jonny Bairstow, the ginger energiser, who shared a fifth-wicket stand of 80 in 25 overs with Cook and was 44 not out at the interval. But Bairstow should have fallen on 11 when Shaminda Eranga spilled an inviting chance at midwicket off Pradeep, a chance which, if taken, would have left England 102 for 5.
Cook, the youngest man to reach 10,000 Test match runs, five months ahead of Sachin Tendulkar, had been presented with an encased silver bat to mark the occasion before the start of the final Test at Lord’s.
The bat so received, it was time to encase his mind and make inroads into the next 10,000. Not for the first time, England were fortunate for his resilience. If his failure to log a 29th Test hundred came as a surprise to many in the capacity crowd, his was the steady heartbeat in an ailing England batting line-up with uncomfortable questions remaining unanswered ahead of the Test series against Pakistan.
England were 84 for 4 on a surface that had promised batting riches when James Vince was bowled by Nuwan Pradeep, pushing emphatically down the wrong line whereupon his off bail was removed from the stumps with the certainty of a kitchen chef slicing the vegetables.
Eranga’s failure to hold Bairstow’s clip off his pads darkened Pradeep’s excellent day. Two boundaries for Bairstow in the next four balls suggested that the fizz might have been let out of the bottle, but it was a fine post-lunch period by Sri Lanka for all that as Eranga and Lakmal also passed the outside edge in a focused display.
Sri Lanka could finally feel the sun on their backs and looked a more contented bowling outfit than they had done in two nithering northern Tests as they sought to extend a good Lord’s record with a victory in a series also conceded after heavy defeats at Headingley and Chester-le-Street.
“The first session will be crucial,” Cook had said, not that he personally needed any reminding of the fact in his 129th Test. The pitch looked flat and the weather was settled. Pads were buckled, helmet donned and once again he settled into the rhythms of an English Test summer. At tea, the scoreboard of 165 for 5 must have had an illogical ring about it.
By lunch, Cook had 48 to his name. Sri Lanka’s seamers sought to pose questions around off stump but every time they slipped onto his pads he despatched them with familiar authority. But others were less successful – Alex Hales, Nick Compton and Joe Root all perishing in a manner which made England grateful for Cook’s measured tread.
Hales must wish he could settle into the sort of natural Test rhythm that Cook finds so natural. A quicker tempo perhaps but one in which he can make his own music. He settled reasonably enough against the new ball, easing Suranga Lakmal confidently through the covers and clipping Eranga up the hill on a manicured Lord’s outfield.
But Angelo Mathews, who must have feared the worst when he came on for the 15th over, England’s 50 already raised, seemed to make him jittery. When Rangana Herath had his first perambulation of the innings, Hales self-destructed against the second ball he faced, attempting to mow over long-on but the ball instead looping gently to first slip where Mathews held the catch.—AFP

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