More of the Same

Looking back on the story of day one of the Third Test between England and Sri Lanka, the simplest description would portray it as the tale of the entire series, condensed into three sessions.

First up, there was a wicket with the new ball. Jon Lewis, making his debut in place of Sajid Mahmood, sneaked his fourth ball off Michael Vandort’s inside edge and into his stumps. Next up, there was some fight from the Sri Lankan top order – Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara adding 83 for the first wicket as Matthew Hoggard and Liam Plunkett struggled for consistency. Mainly dealing in drives through the covers, the two left handers eased themselves within touching distance of the lunch break.

Having Relegated himself to second-change in the attack, England captain Andrew Flintoff was pushing towards the 90mph barrier for the first time in the series when he found seam movement away from Sangakkara. The wicketkeeper played and missed, the ball glanced the top of his back pad, Geraint Jones held the catch, the slip cordon went up – and so did Darrell Hair’s finger. Next came part three of the recap – the Sri Lankan middle order collapse.

Tharanga chased a slightly wide ball from Hoggard to become Jones’ 105th Test catch before Flintoff squared up his opposite number, Mahela Jayawardene, and presented the England wicketkeeper with number 106. After the lunch break, four rapidly became eight. Tillakaratne Dilshan followed a series of slashing drives to the boundary with a slashed edge, low to Flintoff’s left at second slip.

Sanath Jayasuriya, in for the disappointing Thilan Samaraweera, then picked out Kevin Pietersen in the gully as the England captain reprised his successful round-the-wicket line of attack against left handers. Farveez Maharoof and Chamara Kapugedera – replacing Nuwan Kulasekara, ostensibly to strengthen the batting – then followed in similar fashion. The former poked Hoggard directly to Flintoff at second slip, whilst teenager ‘Kapu’ was smartly snaffled by Andrew Strauss, overcoming his early season catching woes as he tumbled away to his left hand side.

From 139 for eight, all that remained was the tailend fightback. A breezy 21 from Lasith Malinga, coupling fortune with flair, was ended as he chipped Lewis to Pietersen at square leg, before Muttiah Muralitharan improvised a series of heaves, smears and hoicks to add 62 for the last wicket with Chaminda Vaas. Murali, collecting balls in the slot and wellying them over cow corner, was fortunate to escape after gloving Monty Panesar up and into the gloves of Jones, hurling himself forwards to short leg, before finally perishing as he swatted Plunkett to Flintoff at midwicket.

Sri Lanka were all out for 231 and in the remnants of the evening session, struck twice to keep themselves in the match. Andrew Strauss, earlier lucky to escape having fended Malinga inches from Tharanga at short leg, saw his off stump pegged back by Vaas as the left armer moved a delivery back into the Middlesex opener. Marcus Trescothick, like his opening partner reprieved off Malinga as Maharoof spilled a hook shot on the square leg boundary, then perished as he attempted a second run away to the fast bowler at fine leg. Even with a series of seemingly inconclusive replays, third umpire Peter Hartley ruled that the left-hander was short of his ground.

Pietersen then made it through the final overs of the day alongside Alistair Cook – who survived a series of leg-before shouts from Vaas – and ensure that, despite the tourists’ tenacity, the home side would shade the first day’s balance of play – much like the rest of the series.

Sri Lanka 231
Chaminda Vaas 38*, Kumar Sangakkara 36
Andrew Flintoff 3-52, Jon Lewis 3-68

England 53-2
Marcus Trescothick 24, Alastair Cook 12*
Chaminda Vaas 1-21

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