Galle, Sri Lanka
A Keaton Jennings century helped England put Sri Lanka on the ropes in the first Test on Thursday, setting the hosts a daunting 462 to win at notoriously low-scoring Galle.
England declared at 322 for six on day three with Jennings 146 not out after a patient innings that saw him deal deftly with the home side’s spin attack.
At the close of play, Sri Lanka were 15 without loss with Dimuth Karunaratne on seven and Kaushal Silva on eight after hanging on for seven overs, with a further 447 to make at a ground where no team has successfully chased more than 99. In the morning session a somewhat shaky Rory Burns, brought in to fill the huge shoes of the retired Alastair Cook, was run out for 23.
Moeen Ali, out first ball in the first innings, fared little better, driving straight to Rangana Herath at mid-on off Dilruwan Perera for three. Herath, in his last game before retiring, then got England captain Joe Root out for the second time in the match, caught behind for three.
But Jennings played cautiously and looked comfortable against spin against Perera and the other spinners. An LBW appeal off Dhananjaya de Silva when Jennings was on 58 was turned down and Sri Lanka chose not to review.
Ben Stokes hit a brisk 62 off 93 balls that saw three sixes, including one back over Perera’s head and an almighty sweep high over midwicket off Dhananjaya de Silva to bring up the 300.
But shortly before tea he became Perera’s second scalp, a demon of a ball pitching outside leg and angling back to take the Durham all-rounder’s off stump.
Jos Buttler smashed a quick 35 before being caught off Herath while Foakes belted out 37 before falling to spinner Akila Dananjaya.
England made 342 in the first innings thanks to a century from Ben Foakes, filling in as wicketkeeper for the injured Jonny Bairstow. Sri Lanka were then bowled out for 203, leaving them 139 behind, falling to a spin attack led by Ali who took four for 66.
Sri Lanka’s openers were largely untroubled as they took the team to 15 for no loss.
Many hopes rest on Dimuth Karunaratne, who was not only Sri Lanka’s top-scorer in their most recent Test series, but has a reputation for playing long innings, against good opposition, in spinning conditions.
Dinesh Chandimal is the other batsman who has recently produced marathon knocks with any deal of consistency, but he was off the field the entire day, still suffering from the groin strain he picked up while fielding on day one.
It is likely to hamper his batting as well, and in any case, he cannot come in higher than at No. 7.
For the hosts, a difficult day was made tougher by the fact that the retiring Rangana Herath could not prove effective against an England top order packed with left-handers.
In his final innings with the ball, he removed Joe Root for the second time in the game, having him caught behind with a gripping delivery. Later, he removed Buttler, caught excellently at silly point by a diving Kaushal Silva.
Herath led the team off the field after England declared, with 433 wickets to his name, which for now places him eighth equal on the all-time list, though he is sure to slip to ninth soon enough, when Stuart Broad, who is not playing in this Test, takes another scalp.—APP