Saturday 8th May 2021

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  • Sri Lanka v England: England complete 211-run win to end losing away run

    First Test, Galle (day four of five)
    England 342 & 322-6 dec: Jennings 146*, Stokes 62
    Sri Lanka 203 & 250: Mathews 53; Moeen 4-71, Leach 3-60
    England win by 211 runs

    England completed a thumping 211-run victory on day four of the first Test against Sri Lanka to end their 13-match winless run away from home.

    The tourists steadily took top order wickets in the first two sessions before taking the final five after tea.

    Moeen Ali claimed 4-71 and Jack Leach 3-60, while Adil Rashid and Ben Stokes picked up a wicket each.

    The win puts England 1-0 up in the three-match series and is their first in an overseas Test since October 2016.

    Between them, England’s three spinners took 16 wickets in the match, the second best return by English spinners in a Test since 1958.

    A dominant performance from England over the first three days had left Sri Lanka needing to bat out the final two days to draw – or score a record 462 to win.

    Beginning the day 15-0, the hosts survived the first hour unscathed but lost three quick wickets before lunch.

    Angelo Mathews offered resistance with 53 but he chipped Moeen to mid-wicket shortly after tea as England closed in.

    Rangana Herath – playing in his final Test – was the last wicket to fall, run out by Stokes.

    The win is Joe Root’s first as captain away from home and is England’s first victory at Galle.

    Spinners lead all-round attack

    England’s bowling attack has struggled for potency overseas in recent years but in Galle, Root was able to call on a variety of bowlers who all contributed.

    Root started day four with seamers James Anderson and Sam Curran before turning quickly to spin when there continued to be no swing.

    He first introduced left-arm spinner Leach, followed by off-spinner Moeen, and the pair removed the Sri Lanka openers, with Leach trapping Kaushal Silva lbw for 30 and Moeen catching Dimuth Karunaratne off his own bowling for 26.

    All-rounder Ben Stokes has had a light workload with the ball in this Test but he dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva on the stroke of lunch and bowled a hostile spell after the interval.

    He peppered Mathews and Kusal Mendis with excellent short bowling and should have had been rewarded with another wicket but Anderson dropped a simple catch from Mathews.

    Leach bowled a long, accurate spell in the afternoon session and claimed the two wickets to fall, having Mendis caught at mid-off and bowling Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal with a brilliant spinning delivery.

    Moeen then returned after tea and for the second time in the match took a wicket with the first ball of the final session, this time having Dhananjaya de Silva caught by Stokes at slip.

    Shortly afterwards Moeen saw off Mathews and leg-spinner Rashid claimed his first wicket of the innings by dismissing Dilruwan Perera for an aggressive 30, before the victory was sealed by the run out of Herath.

    Other than Root, who bowled one over on day four, every England bowler took a wicket in the match but it will be the spinners who pleased the England captain most.

    Their combined 16 wickets is the second-best spinners’ haul for England for 60 years, beaten only by the 19 Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar shared in Mumbai in 2012

    Losing run ends in Galle

    England’s losing run overseas stretched back all the way to 30 October 2016 when they lost to Bangladesh in Dhaka.

    Since then England have lost series 4-0 in both India and Australia, plus 1-0 in New Zealand earlier this year, with three draws accompanying the nine defeats.

    Previously at Galle England had drawn twice and lost twice but on this occasion, after being reduced to 103-5 before lunch on day one, they then dominated the match.

    As well as the bowlers the batsmen also contributed, with man-of-the-match Ben Foakes and Keaton Jennings hitting centuries in the first and second innings respectively.

    “To be able to contribute to the team is just amazing,” Foakes said. “It has been one of the best weeks of my career so far, if not the best.

    “It’s a dream come true.”

    A win in the second Test in Pallekele, starting on Wednesday, would seal England’s first away series win since beating South Africa in 2016.

    Problems for Sri Lanka

    For Sri Lanka, the final wicket summed up their disappointing performance in this Test.

    Their bowlers were not as effective as England’s, their fielding disappointed and some of their batsmen again fell to reckless shots on the fourth day.

    Making an albeit unlikely attempt to save the Test, Karunaratne was out attacking Moeen, hitting the ball straight back for a catch in the morning session, and Mendis foolishly charged down the wicket and skewed a shot to mid-off.

    The ball before Dhananjaya edged to Stokes at first slip in the final over before lunch, he had played a wild drive to the Durham all-rounder which had been given out caught behind, only to be overturned on review.

    Herath’s dismissal – sprawled in the dirt after failing to beat Stokes’ powerful throw – was an ignominious finish for a player who ended with 433 Test wickets – putting him joint eighth on the all-time list – but also a strange one as he had called for the risky second run.

    The 40-year-old’s team-mates celebrated his retirement at the end of play by carrying the spinner around his home ground on their shoulders but Sri Lanka will now have to do without him for the remaining two Tests.

    “It was a very good wicket but our batting was below-par,” Chandimal said, adding it was not the farewell that he and his team mates had imagined for Herath.

    “It’s a hard day for us, because we know how much Rangana has done for the team and Sri Lanka cricket,” reflected Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, who struggled in this match with a groin injury sustained while fielding.

    “We’ll have to say ‘sorry’ to him, we couldn’t give him a really good farewell.

    “Our batting was below par during the game, you can’t stay in the game (with this kind of batting).

    “Credit goes to England, they played some outstanding cricket. We had a really good start in the first session but we couldn’t capitalise on it.”

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