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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 January 2021

England in control of first Test after 'utter garbage' Sri Lanka collapse to 135 all out

Spinner Bess finishes with career-best figures of 5-30, before captain Root hits a half-century as tourists dominate first day at Galle International Stadium

England spinner Dom Bess finished for 5-30 against Sri Lanka as the home side collapsed to 135 all out before tea on the first day of the first Test. Getty
England spinner Dom Bess finished for 5-30 against Sri Lanka as the home side collapsed to 135 all out before tea on the first day of the first Test. Getty

England captain Joe Root struck his 50th Test fifty on the first day of the opening match of the series against Sri Lanka after Dom Bess' five wickets helped skittle out the home side for a paltry 135.

An unbeaten 110-run partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Root saw England to 127-2 at stumps on Thursday, trailing by eight runs, with the opportunity to go on and build a significant lead after Sri Lanka posted the lowest first-innings score in a test at the Galle International Stadium.

The pair steadied matters after spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, who opened the bowling, had removed England openers Dom Sibley (4) and Zak Crawley (9) cheaply.

Root, in his 98th test, survived a leg before decision when on 20, which was overturned on review, before reaching his half century off 94 balls. He will resume on Friday on 66 with Bairstow playing a strong supporting role with 47 not out.

Bess took 5-30 off just 10.1 overs with strong back-up from Stuart Broad (3-20) as the home side failed to take advantage of winning the toss with some wayward batting.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan, who was commentating for BBC Test Match Special, described the home team's effort as "utter garbage" on social media.

Bess got off to the perfect start when he took the wicket of the dangerous Kusal Perera with only his second ball of the morning. Attempting an ambitious reverse sweep, Perera succeeded only in top edging the ball to Root at slip to depart for 20, the first of several ill-considered shots from the home batsmen.

Niroshan Dickwella was caught at backward point for 12 while Dasun Shanaka, who scored 23, went in bizarre circumstances, sweeping his shot onto the ankle of Bairstow at short leg, popping it up into the air for wicketkeeper Jos Buttler to claim.

Preferred to England’s record Test wicket-taker James Anderson, Broad bagged opener Lahiru Thirimanne and struggling Kusal Mendis in the same over for the first two wickets of the test and then added Angelo Mathews after lunch.

Dinesh Chandimal, who took over the captaincy from injured Dimuth Karunaratne, top scored for the hosts with 28.

Spinner Bess admitted he had mixed feelings about his five wickets. "It was bizarre, really bizarre," he said. "I didn't feel like I bowled very well. I felt I was quite nervous. I hadn't bowled since the Test matches last summer in a game. I was pretty nervous and there was that short rubbish one that got cut [Dickwella wicket].

"I didn't feel I bowled as well as I know I can. That is cricket isn't it? There might be days bowl exceptionally well and go 1-100.

"We have put ourselves in a really good position. Rooty and Jonny batted really well because the wicket started to spin."

Sri Lanka were forced to leave out Karunaratne due to a fractured thumb – another injury blow to a team that suffered several setbacks on their tour of South Africa earlier this month.

Updated: January 14, 2021 05:28 PM

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