Trott heroics in vain for England
England suffered a 75-run defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test at Galle, despite a masterful 112 from Jonathan Trott on day four.
Faced with an imposing target of 340, the tourists appeared well placed to pull off their highest successful run chase in the premier form of the game when Trott completed his century in the afternoon session.
At that stage, England were 232 for four, but the dismissal of Matt Prior, who had contributed an assured 41 to a fifth-wicket stand of 81, later in the over tilted the momentum back in Sri Lanka’s favour and the final five batsmen then fell for the addition of 12 runs.
All 10 second-innings wickets fell to spin on a dry and dusty surface that predictably deteriorated as the match wore on, Rangana Herath taking a further six scalps to finish with outstanding match figures of 12-171.
Andrew Strauss’ side have now suffered four consecutive Test defeats following their 3-0 reverse at the hands of Pakistan earlier this year and must win the second and final match in Colombo next week to remain at the summit of the International Cricket Council rankings.
In displaying exceptional powers of concentration, rock-solid defence and impeccable shot selection en route to his seventh Test hundred, Trott did his best to keep England, who had been dismissed for just 193 in their first innings, on course for a stunning triumph.
Prior was the only other batsman to pass 30, however, as Sri Lanka’s slow bowlers inspired their team to a first home victory since the retirement of legendary off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in July 2010.
Wily left-armer Herath, who picked up the key wickets of Prior and Trott shortly before tea, deserves particular credit for his career-best return, while Suraj Randiv chipped in with 4-74 from 26 overs.
England have chased down more than 300 on just three occasions in Tests and needed to surpass the 332 they knocked off against Australia at Melbourne in 1928 if they were to win today.
Their task was made more difficult by stifling conditions at Galle, yet there was cause for optimism for much of the opening two sessions.
Kevin Pietersen added just one to his overnight 29 before being caught at short midwicket off Randiv and Ian Bell was lbw to Herath for 13, despite being struck well outside the crease as he looked to sweep.
However, Trott wasted little time in settling into his stride and was scarcely troubled as he accumulated runs patiently and with minimal risk.
His only real let-off came on 62, when Herath failed to take a difficult one-handed return catch to his left after the batsman had got a leading edge playing across the line.
England’s progress was slow for much of the morning, but Trott and Prior were able to rotate the strike with greater ease after lunch and the latter brought up a valuable fifty partnership, from 128 deliveries, with a single off Lakmal.
Sri Lanka took the new ball at the earliest opportunity, but were unable to build pressure as the fifth-wicket pair continued to grow in confidence.
England’s wicketkeeper-batsman took a particular liking to the additional pace on the ball and drove Lakmal effortlessly through the covers for a rare four.
Another classy shot through midwicket followed off Chanaka Welegedara, but, after Trott had moved to three figures by slog-sweeping Herath to the deep square-leg boundary, Prior departed.
Seeking to repeat Trott’s stroke earlier in the over, he was unfortunate to be caught at short-leg, the ball having nestled in Lahiru Thirimanne’s chest before being grasped by the fielder.
Herath picked up his fifth wicket of the innings when Samit Patel was caught at the second attempt by Tillakaratne Dilshan at short cover and the same fielder then claimed a marvellous catch at leg-slip after Trott had looked to work one around the corner off Randiv.
That wicket all but ended England’s hopes and there was a further setback on the stroke of tea when Graeme Swann missed a sweep at Herath to be lbw for one.
A further seven deliveries were all Sri Lanka needed to wrap up proceedings, Randiv having James Anderson caught behind before Dilshan rounded off a marvellous exhibition of close catching by pouching Monty Panesar, for a golden duck, at second slip.