Jayawardene shines on enthralling day
England’s bowlers toiled in the Colombo heat as Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene produced another batting masterclass on an even first day of the second Test.
With the hosts already 1-0 up in the two-match series, Jayawardene enjoyed a fine start to the day by winning what seemed a crucial toss and opting to bat.
James Anderson, though, did his best to derail hopes of a substantial first-innings total by taking three early wickets to reduce Sri Lanka to 30 for three.
But the second of those merely heralded the introduction of Jayawardene, who followed up his 180 in the first encounter with another tour de force.
Again dealing in precision rather than power, the diminutive number four thrived on a dry, cracked surface that looked likely to deteriorate substantially as the game goes on.
He faced 216 deliveries today in hitting a stunning 105 and dampening the tourists’ hopes of ending a disappointing winter on a high.
Indeed, England headed into the encounter desperate to end a four-Test losing sequence, having followed up a 3-0 loss against Pakistan with a 75-run defeat in Galle.
At one stage it appeared Jayawardene was going to compound their misery, but Graeme Swann crucially removed the captain before Steven Finn accounted for his namesake, Prasanna.
Angelo Mathews remained resolute and was 41 not out at stumps, with Sri Lanka 238 for six.
On a day when Test cricket’s 2,000,000th run was scored - off the bat of Thilan Samaraweera - the crowd were given another reminder of why this remains the game’s premier form as momentum swung back and forth throughout.
Anderson got England off to a flying start and, just like the first encounter, soon found himself on a hat-trick.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, having struck back-to-back cover-driven boundaries, edged to Matt Prior, before Kumar Sangakkara registered his second golden duck in as many Tests, first slip Andrew Strauss catching at the second attempt.
Anderson had to wait until the start of his next over for the hat-trick ball, which Mahela Jayawardene tickled through fine-leg for four, but soon grabbed a third wicket.
He found movement back into Lahiru Thirimanne, who shouldered arms to be trapped in front, and then unsuccessfully reviewed umpire Bruce Oxenford’s decision.
Finn and Tim Bresnan, in the XI in place of Monty Panesar and the injured Stuart Broad, both caused further alarm, but Jayawardene and Samaraweera batted through to lunch.
The former, in particular, looked impressive as a series of dabs and sweeps provided frustration for England’s bowlers with conditions seemingly easing.
That annoyance was added to as Alastair Cook narrowly failed to hold a difficult chance at short-leg, after which he did grasp a Finn delivery that troubled Samaraweera. Despite a loud England appeal, though, umpire Aleem Dar delivered a not-out verdict, which was upheld on review with video evidence proving inconclusive.
After being starved of runs by Samit Patel, Jayawardene brought up his half-century with a quick single. But Finn continued his bombardment of Samaraweera, striking the batsman on the helmet.
Samaraweera then glided narrowly past leg-slip for four before Jayawardene illustrated his great touch by launching Patel down the ground for six.
The century stand was brought up soon after, with the former then reaching his fifty courtesy of a cut through point off Swann.
Runs came more freely as the afternoon session wore on but, on the stroke of tea, Bresnan found some reverse swing to trap Samaraweera in front for 54.
Both Anderson and Swann were proving difficult to handle after the restart, with the former forcing an edge from Jayawardene - only for Strauss to miss a difficult, low chance.
That was the best opportunity of an excellent four-over spell from the seamer who, much like Swann, bowled impressively with little reward.
Looking in increasingly good touch, Jayawardene glanced Swann through fine-leg before Mathews cut the off-spinner through cover for another four. The former reached his 31st Test ton with a clip through mid-on.
Swann, though, got a deserved breakthrough when, bowling around the wicket, he found drift and prodigious spin to trap Jayawardene - who unsuccessfully reviewed - in front for 105.
England then surprisingly took the new ball, which, with little movement on offer, helped the batsman more than bowlers - as Prasanna Jayawardene showed with a glorious straight-driven four off Finn.
The bowler grabbed his revenge, though, finding a little away movement to catch the edge, Prior doing the rest.
Mathews was fortunate to survive a couple of late inside-edges with men around the bat, but reached stumps alongside Suraj Randiv, who was unbeaten on five.