Swann leads England fightback
Graeme Swann claimed four wickets to provide England with renewed hope at Galle, although the tourists still faced an uphill battle to avoid defeat in the opening Test against Sri Lanka after their own problems against spin resurfaced.
Replying to a total of 318, England - who struggled against Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman en route to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Pakistan in their last Test assignment - were dismissed for 193 inside 47 overs on a seemingly blameless second-day pitch.
Rangana Herath was chiefly responsible for their troubles, the accurate slow left-armer making the most of appreciable, yet not extravagant turn en route to impressive figures of 6-74.
Only Ian Bell, returning to form in some style with a classy 52, offered any prolonged resistance. Several of his team-mates may regret the shot selection that led to their dismissals.
Faced with a deficit of 125, England’s bowlers responded superbly by once again making significant early inroads into Sri Lanka’s top order.
Openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne were bowled by Stuart Broad and Swann respectively, before the off-spinner had first-innings centurion Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara caught at slip and gully respectively.
When Swann struck again to remove Thilan Samaraweera shortly before stumps, England’s spirits were lifted once more, although Sri Lanka undoubtedly remain in the ascendancy.
They ended day two on 84 for five, leading by 209, and a dry and dusty surface can be expected to deteriorate significantly as the match progresses.
James Anderson had earlier finished with 5-72 - his 12th five-wicket haul in Tests - as Sri Lanka added 29 to their first-innings score.
Anderson, who drew level with Lancashire legend Brian Statham in his country’s list of leading wicket-takers yesterday, bowled Chanaka Welegedara before having Jayawardene caught behind for a magnificent 180.
The Sri Lanka captain has now recorded seven three-figure scores at this venue and two against England following his unbeaten 213 here in December 2007.
In contributing more than half of his team’s runs, Jayawardene, who was dropped four times on day one, was almost solely responsible for helping Sri Lanka recover from 15 for three and 191 for seven.
Yet the hosts failed to take full advantage of the substantial lead they went on to gain and both Dilshan and Thirimanne were guilty of playing across the line to straight deliveries when they batted for a second time, the former registering a duck.
Jayawardene, pushing forward with uncharacteristic hesitancy, then edged Swann to slip and, following a series of tight overs from England’s spinners, Sangakkara followed suit, beaten by one that drifted in before gripping the surface and taking the edge to Bell.
The patient Samaraweera, who saw an inside-edge off Anderson flash past his stumps late in the day, looked set to make it through to the close, only to then be stumped after walking past a Swann delivery from around the wicket.
Suraj Randiv was subsequently sent out as a nightwatchman and will resume tomorrow alongside Dinesh Chandimal, who has 17 to his name.
With the exception of the fluent Bell, England’s batsmen all failed to fire.
Alastair Cook departed with the score on nought, lbw to one from Suranga Lakmal that shaped back in, and although Jonathan Trott and Andrew Strauss both looked comfortable against pace, the introduction of Herath led to their downfall.
Trott was stumped after playing across the line to a full toss, while Strauss, after seeing one edge narrowly evade Jayawardene at slip, missed a sweep to be lbw for 26. A review was required to overturn umpire Asad Rauf’s initial not out decision.
Bell, who endured a particularly tough time in the United Arab Emirates, prospered from the outset of his innings with a series of confident strokes, including a straight six off Herath.
Wickets continued to tumble around him after lunch, however, Kevin Pietersen playing on to Welegedara before Herath won lbw verdicts against Matt Prior and Samit Patel, who each paid the price for playing back to length deliveries.
Broad, who had raced to 28 with the aid of four consecutive back-foot boundaries off Lakmal, was also trapped in front to provide Herath with a fifth scalp.
By that stage, Bell had enjoyed a stroke of fortune when a paddle-sweep off Randiv ricocheted into the hands of wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene via short-leg. To the relief of England, the ball had come off the fielder’s helmet, resulting in a dead ball being called.
Bell duly moved past 50 by sweeping Randiv more successfully for his eighth four, but, after Swann - who dealt exclusively in boundaries on his way to 24 - had clipped the same bowler to midwicket, England’s top scorer was then bowled by a beauty from Herath that spun sharply past the outside edge.
Anderson, who finished unbeaten on 23, and Monty Panesar prolonged the innings - and delayed the tea interval - with an entertaining 10th-wicket stand of 36 before the latter fell lbw to Randiv for 11.
Sixteen runs had been taken from a chaotic first over today, boundaries coming via Welegedara’s pad, top edge and helmet before the tailender crunched Anderson through midwicket for a fourth four in six balls.
The seamer soon got his revenge, hitting the top of leg stump with a slower ball in his next set of six as Welegedara hung back in anticipation of a short delivery.
Jayawardene collected his 21st and 22nd fours, off Broad and Anderson respectively, but his tremendous knock came to an end when he pushed forward at the latter and nicked through to wicketkeeper Prior.