England in control of first Test in Sri Lanka after bowling hosts out for 203 as Ben Foakes follows debut century with brilliant day behind the stumps
- England are well on their way to a first away Test victory in 14 matches
- Ben Foakes scored 107 on debut before the wicket keeper impressed with gloves
- England skittled Sri Lanka for 203, Moeen Ali the stand-out with four wickets
- They lead by 177 runs and are 11 for none at close, with Rory Burns fit to open
- Burns was struck on neck at short leg but was fine after on-field treatment
It has been 745 long days since England last won an away Test, but it will need something akin to a Sri Lankan miracle – or a return of torrential rain – to stop them ending that barren run here in the most improbable of settings.
Galle is to Sri Lanka what the Gabba is to Australia but England took huge steps towards recording their first ever victory at this special ground and their first away from home in 14 matches with a masterful display.
At the centre of it was the equally unlikely figure of Ben Foakes, who is having surely the best England Test debut since Andrew Strauss announced himself with a century and 83 against New Zealand at Lord’s in 2004.
Ben Foakes celebrates his century, the first England wicketkeeper to record one in Asia
First Foakes added the 13 runs he needed overnight to reach the most superlative of centuries and rescue his side from big trouble and then, after selflessly perishing in pursuit of runs, just did what he does best for Surrey.
Alec Stewart may have been accused of bias when he said earlier this year that his county’s keeper was the best in the world but Foakes justified that lofty claim with a quite outstanding display behind the stumps.
This, when the sun shines and the humidity levels rise as we saw on Wednesday, is one of the most testing environments in world cricket, but England were up to it and quite brilliant in the field as they skittled Sri Lanka out for 203.
Foakes then continued his brilliant debut with the sharp stumping of Dinesh Chandimal
The tone for that was set by Foakes, who quietly and seemingly effortlessly did not put a foot wrong in 68 demanding overs, 48 of them bowled by three spinners combining to take eight of the 10 wickets.
It really was easy for Foakes to take a regulation catch off just the second ball of the innings when Dimuth Karunaratne got Sri Lanka off to the worst possible start by edging Jimmy Anderson.
But it was in making his first stumping at this level off a big Adil Rashid leg-break and when taking a much sharper catch off Moeen Ali with ease that Foakes demonstrated his talent and temperament at the highest level.
To think he is only here because Jonny Bairstow hurt his ankle playing football ahead of the final one-day international. There is no way England can leave Foakes out now. Not even if Bairstow, who looked fit when undergoing a keeping drill with Bruce French during lunch, will desperately want the gloves back in Kandy next week.
It is what sports people call ‘a nice problem to have’, but it is a situation England will have to handle delicately, not least because they will desperately need Bairstow, sans gloves, to provide batting ballast at the top of the order.
That dilemma can wait for another day. For now England must be given credit for recovering from the worst possible first session of the first day to lead by 177 runs with all second innings remaining at the end of the second one.
Rory Burns was hurt by the last ball before tea in Galle after being struck on the back
The England opener was hurt by a sweep from Niroshan Dickwella while fielding at short leg
Burns was treated on the field by the England medical staff but was well enough to walk off
If Foakes set the tone then England were brilliantly marshaled by a captain in Joe Root who used his six bowlers intelligently and saw them prove far too much for a Sri Lankan side a shadow of what they once were.
No-one bowled better than Moeen, finally producing overseas what he regularly does at home to take four wickets and again proving himself the No 1 spinner however much he hates that status.
It was after a miserable Ashes last winter that Moeen was dropped in New Zealand and left out until he returned to productive effect with nine wickets in the fourth Test against India last summer in Southampton.
Moeen Ali also impressed for England, taking four wickets as the spinners dominated in Galle
Questions still remained as to whether he could do it away from home, even on turning pitches, but here he struck in his first over to bowl Dhananjaya de Silva before bowling with both penetration and accuracy.
There was an impressive display, too, from Jack Leach, who exerted such control over Sri Lanka that he did not concede a boundary until his 83rd ball, while Rashid showed why Ed Smith was so keen to return him to red-ball cricket.
The one worry for England in the field came on the stroke of tea when Rory Burns was struck a painful blow on the back taking evasive action at short leg, but he had recovered sufficiently to reach an unbeaten 11 by the close.
This Galle pitch is now showing signs of the turn for which it is famous and England believe it will deteriorate quickly now. They will certainly hope so now they are so well placed to record what would be a famous victory and their first away since they just about beat Bangladesh in Chittagong two years ago.
Source: Read Full Article