Following our lame defeat at the hands of the touring South Africa side at Trent Bridge, we hit the road and the sky and travelled overseas for the first time in the Global Test Championship with the aim of registering our inaugural Championship points at the desirable curtailment of Sri Lanka.
For the second consecutive time, we were inserted into a bat and we made history in the GTC but not in the ideal way. Lahiru Kumara ripped through our top order leaving us reeling at 3-29 in similar circumstances to the South Africa match with Jennings (1), Burns (14) and Stokes (4) falling foul of the extra pace on show. Jos Buttler’s expertise against spin started expansively and captain Root looked in prime form before left arm spin curtailed his innings for the third successive time.
The tourists were 5-87 at home to the Proteas and found themselves 5-74 in Sri Lanka within the first session with Foakes (0) the fifth to depart having made 1 and 85 against South Africa. However, Foakes’ excellent glove work and standout innings in the two test matches so far leaves his place at the moment is unthreatened.
Chris Woakes bowled for a golden duck by Dilruwan Perera as Sri Lanka reduced us from 68-3 to 74-7
Spin was at the forefront of the Sri Lankan bowling and heavily speculated to who would fill the massive void of the experienced Rangana Hearth left. But, both Dilruwan Perera and Malinda Pushpakumara delivered when they needed to taking 9 combined wickets across both innings. Buttler fell LBW for 21 sweeping in front of the canny Perera who executed a great plan and his slower arm ball yorked Woakes (0) crushing England to 74-7
The tourists stabilized themselves from their precarious position with new inclusion Rashid combining with the Beard that is Moeen Ali and putting on an important 78 together momentarily denting Sri Lankan hopes of an early tea. Rashid has 10 first class centuries to his name alongside 37 half centuries and enhanced his batting credentials (mostly in the 2nd innings), one of the little positives we will take away from this encounter.
Moeen Ali smashed an unbeaten 90 and has been England’s most consistent performer in the GTC so far with 7 wickets @ 29.71.
Rashid departed for a gusty 13 and it seemed all hope was lost but Ali ventured on dominating the strike and hitting boundaries at aplomb. England’s tail was wrapped up quickly with Broad (2) and Anderson (0) failing to stay at the crease leaving Ali stranded on 90, which was exactly half of our total!
An image summing up our efforts and performances in the Global Test Championship
Sri Lanka made good use of the extended period to bat on Day 1 with just under half of the day to build a healthy lead reaching 50 within no time. Opener Karunratne fell for 23 to the leg spin of Rashid just after 50 but keeper Samarawickrama and exciting talent Danajaya Da Silva developing an untouchable partnership. We toiled hard in tricky conditions for bowling with the pitch flattening out and the batsman maintaining their control. Veterans Broad and Anderson failed to lead the line with their conventional accuracy and wicket taking success as our spinners led with favourable turn and bounce which complimented Ali and Rashid but to largely no avail early on.
We felt aggrieved at some umpiring decisions over the course of the match and this run out appeal from Burns was wrongly rejected or rightly dismissed?
Moeen Ali managed to rip one just enough to provide the edge which Foakes took comfortably with Samarawickrama departing for an elegant 56. Runs though were hard to stop with De Silva and now Gunathilaka settling against the varied England attack which caused threats with seam and spin but not sustained pressure. The Barmy Army though stayed in full voice right until the end of the day and it was maybe the singing that caused bedlam at the wicket with De Silva playing a rash shot on 84 nicking behind off the bowling of Woakes (catch above.) The last over ploy from Woakes with men around the bat setting up for the bouncer before bowling a pin point leg cutter. Day 1 finished with Sri Lanka 209-3.
We started Day 2 on a high and our rejuvenated attack struck with the second ball of the day as Matthews succumbed to Woakes’ cunning ploy, Rashid taking a smart catch. Ben Stokes hasn’t featured with the ball much in the GTC but proved golden arm with the tenacious Gunathilaka nicking behind for a well made 36. Keepers Chandimal and Dickwella rebuilt after a mini collapse but weren’t given an inch by England in a spirited bowling performance.
A composed 59 run partnership was ended by Rashid who found enough turn to dismiss Dickwella (24) before the introduction of captain Joe Root worked a treat as his clever off spin bowling cannoned into Chandimal'(39) middle stump leaving Sri Lanka 6-280.
Foakes taking a remarkable catch ending the Sri Lankan 1st innings.
England swiftly wrapped up the tail as Lakmal (1) and Pushpakumara (19) falling to Rashid (6-109) for his fourth victim in the 1st innings whilst Kumara (2) failed to impress with the bat gaining Ali his 4th and promoting him to our leading wicket taker in the GTC.
Provided the rapid nature of the match, we were intent on getting off to a good start in order to build a respectful lead. After a promising start, Burns departed for a solid 22 to a vicious Lakmal bouncer and Ben Stokes (4 & 1) increased the pressure and questions over his role in the squad, departing for 1. Jennings and Root both needed to ease the pressure on their positions and duly set about creating a successful partnership. Root in particular displayed a different side to his innings playing a more aggressive role with Jennings methodically making his first half ton in a lot of matches.
However, Kumara proved the villain and broke the stumps off Jennings which left him bamboozled and England still 25 runs behind. What followed was the England we know and love! 136-3 to 170-7! Perera took both keepers Buttler (7) and Foakes (4) before 1st innings hero Moeen Ali was bowled for 6 by Pushpakumara and Woakes (5) nicked to 3rd slip off Kumara.
Root though stood tallest of all and whacked an important 114 in tough Sri Lankan conditions to temporarily restore English pride and passion into a lead which would be competitive chase. Adil Rashid merited his inclusion to the Test XI with a swashbuckling and attacking 68 with an 110 run partnership plus an 11th wicket partnership with Jimmy Anderson of 40 runs with Anderson adding 8. We ended up with 303 in a more spirited and determined batting innings yet we knew that 159 with 2 and a half days left would be a comfortable chase for the hosts if we didn’t take early wickets.
Jimmy Anderson had a disappointing time with the ball in the 1st innings but was clearly fired up and broke through the defence of Karunratne (6). Then, a fortuitous umpiring decision by Aleem Dar meant that De Silva (15) was dismissed to Rashid through to Foakes’ 5th catch of the match. Sri Lanka were then reduced to 3-52 when Anderson produced some magic to run out opener Samarawickrama (27) – a top quality effort from the England and Lancashire veteran.
A direct hit from Anderson (0-32 & 1-27) giving England some hope.
Gunathilaka and Matthews though had other ideas and put on a mammoth and crushing 100 partnership with Gunathilaka reaching 50 through innovation. Rashid capped off his impressive GTC start and dismissed Matthews (47) to end the match with 6-109 and valuable lower order runs. Gunathilaka then scored the winning runs sparking excitement on the Sri Lankan balcony and despair for England with two defeats on the bounce.
This was an emphatic and hammer blow win for Sri Lanka who seem to have found some form after their opening victory against Bangladesh. A first innings bowling display which saw the tourists all out within 50 overs set the tone for a big victory. It was the shortest GTC innings to date and a sign of collapse and frailty in the England line up. Sri Lanka mainly had contributions with the ball as Kumara, Perera, Pushpakumara and Lakmal took noteworthy wickets. With the bat, De Silva starred with 84 as their depth in batting wasn’t nearly as tested as their previous game against Bangladesh.
The first two matches have definitely been an experience and disappointing for us. 7 players have made individual half centuries whilst Root has been the only one to convert to a ton. In both matches, crumbling with the bat in the first innings has been the major difference between winning and losing as we scored over 300 in the second innings of both games. Joe Root is our top scorer with 168 with only Buttler, Ali and Stokes reaching above 100 runs. Our lower order do put on some runs though with Rashid and Broad scoring more than our two incumbent openers. In terms of bowling, Moeen Ali leads the way with 7 followed by fellow spinner Rashid as seamers Broad (2), Anderson (5) and Woakes (5) have struggled so far with the pink ball. There have been few influential and decisive contributions made so far. However, the atmosphere is still positive as we are intent on revenge to get our Global Test Championship rolling.
Our next match sees us return home to the sunny skies of Lancashire, for the Old Trafford Test Match, to take on the West Indies who are also in the same boat after being defeated in their first 2 encounters. Pundits and speculation is rife over the squad, and changes can be expected with Jonny Bairstow amongst others in contention to feature with the apparent injury to Ben Stokes ruling himself out of the next 2 matches. However, we will review conditions prior to confirming any amendments to the squad.