England prosper between rain breaks
England dodged the rain to make significant early inroads with the ball in the first Test to be held at the Rose Bowl.
The hosts overcame a delayed start and two lengthy stoppages for rain – a familiar story during a decidedly damp start to the international summer – to reduce Sri Lanka to a precarious 39 for four.
James Anderson exploited overhead conditions and Chris Tremlett a surprisingly lively pitch to claim two wickets apiece, before Thilan Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardene led a courageous fightback that carried the tourists to 81 without further loss by the close of the opening day.
They withstood a sustained examination of mind and body to share an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 42, more than doubling Sri Lanka’s score while restoring a measure of belief to a fragile dressing room.
As much as Samaraweera and Jayawardene deserved their share of the applause afforded them when the players left the field at 7.20pm, the day belonged irrefutably to England.
They bowled with great hostility and, if their penchant for the short ball was not met with universal approval and their radars occasionally deserted them, England captain Andrew Strauss can rightly consider himself vindicated in asking Sri Lanka to bat on a green-tinged pitch that had spent much of the previous 24 hours under cover.
Heavy rain overnight and this morning meant the Rose Bowl had to wait until 12.15pm to become the 10th Test venue in England and Wales – and the 105th in the world – in hosting the third npower Test.
Fit again following a side strain and returning at the expense of Steven Finn, Anderson swung the new ball appreciably under skies that veered between miserably grey and wonderfully clear.
He had to wait almost an hour to break through, however, rewarded finally for maintaining the fuller length that was shunned by Stuart Broad and, to a lesser extent, Tremlett.
Lahiru Thirimanne, Sri Lanka’s 21-year-old Test debutant, showed admirable nerve and no little technique to withstand an attack on his ribs in making 10, only to be drawn into playing at one that swung away. Strauss took a straightforward catch at first slip.
If Anderson and England spent the ensuing two-hour rain delay smarting over the failed appeal for caught behind that saw Tharanga Paranavitana survive on six – Aleem Dar and then TV umpire Billy Doctrove rejected appeal and review respectively, although ‘Snicko’ later suggested there was contact between bat and ball – their ire was forgotten shortly after the resumption.
Paranavitana, who had earlier been struck on the finger by a lifter from Broad, was forced back by a series of short deliveries from Tremlett before being pinned in front by a full-length inswinger. As plans go, it would have made the A-Team proud.
Kumar Sangakkara was caught behind driving airily at Anderson moments later, a stroke that many observers will use as evidence of a mind scrambled by the unwanted demands of captaincy. Four wickets had tumbled for a mere 16 runs.
He departed with a frustrated swish of the bat and a longing look to the heavens, and it was with considerable relief that Sri Lanka will have greeted the rain which heralded another two-hour delay.
It merely stalled England’s charge as, shortly after the 6pm restart, Tremlett, who at times operated with four slips, two gullies and a short-leg, located Mahela Jayawardene’s edge with a wonderful delivery that bounced and left him from back of a length.
England’s dominance at that stage was almost complete – Sri Lanka were scoring at barely 1.5 runs an over – making the resilience shown by Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardene all the more noteworthy.