Jonny Bairstow

Sri Lanka v England first Test: Bairstow and Lawrence clinch seven-wicket win

Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence showed cool heads to see England to a seven-wicket victory on the final morning of the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Scorecard: Sri Lanka v England, first Test - day five, Galle

Sri Lanka: 135 all out, 359 all out

England: 421 all out, 76-3

England win by seven wickets

Report: Day five

Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence showed cool heads to see England to a seven-wicket victory on the final morning of the first Test against Sri Lanka.

The pair had come together in chaotic fashion on the fourth evening in Galle, the tourists succumbing to a clatter of nerves as they slipped to 14 for three chasing just 74.

Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and captain Joe Root all fell cheaply, but the fourth-wicket pair extinguished the anxiety to leave only 36 needed on day five.

Resuming on 38 for three they went about their business with a renewed clarity, making light of any overnight concerns they or the England fans watching at home may still have harboured.

They finished with a stand of 62, turning an embattled start into a walk in the park and delivered the result that had seemed inevitable all the way back to the first afternoon when they hustled their hosts out for just 135.

The ball was still turning sharply but the scoring was brisk enough to erase any doubt, with the mission accomplished in 36 minutes and 9.2 overs.

Bairstow, who had been at least partly complicit in running out Root for one during the previous drama, led the way with 35 not out and had the honour of hitting the winning runs.

In doing so the Yorkshireman made it four overseas Test wins in a row – the previous three dating back to last winter’s tour of South Africa – a streak last seen in the 1950s.

Having earlier cut his second ball of the day for four to third man, he wrapped things up with a second boundary as he stooped low and swept Dilruwan Perera round the corner to make it 1-0 in the two-match series.

Lawrence, meanwhile, completed a highly successful first appearance in England colours. With a dashing 73 already to his name from the first innings, he showed bundles of composure in entirely different circumstances and his willingness to take on a challenge such as this speaks well of the 23-year-old’s readiness for international cricket.

He had one moment of fortune along the way when home skipper Dinesh Chandimal declining to review an lbw appeal from Perera that DRS would have upheld, but it was academic in the wider context.

Showing respect but not deference to the opposition and the tricky pitch, he was enterprising in his strokeplay and followed Bairstow’s calm lead.

The latter is a veteran next to Lawrence, with this his 71st Test appearance, but he had last appeared in this format way back in 2019. After a composed 47, his knock here confirmed him as a viable long-term candidate for the number three slot.

Batting places are set to be at a premium soon, with Rory Burns, Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes all due to return but both Bairstow and Lawrence have made a strong case for retention.

Report: Day four

England were left needing 36 fifth-day runs to win a gripping first Test against Sri Lanka, after being dragged into an exhausting battle of wills in Galle.

The tourists have been firm favourites ever since skittling their opponents for just 135 on the first afternoon and, while they remain well positioned to close out victory, they were challenged all the way on Sunday.

First Sri Lanka turned a 286-run deficit into a lead of 73, an outstanding effort of belligerent batsmanship, then they set the hares running by reducing Joe Root’s side to 14 for three as nerves frayed and shadows lengthened.

The umpires called time with England on 38 for three, with Jonny Bairstow and debutant Dan Lawrence at the crease having settled the situation down in failing light. After single-figure dismissals for Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and captain Root, senselessly run out in the growing chaos, it was a slender but crucial stand.

Sri Lanka had finally been bowled out for 359, keeping England sweating in seething heat for almost 137 overs, with Jack Leach claiming a hard-earned five for 122.

The left-arm spinner was playing just his third first-class match since November 2019, a period that saw him battle life-threatening sepsis in New Zealand and further illness and injury at home and abroad. Having taken his time to find rhythm he wheeled his way through just under 42 overs and saved his team a bigger chase by taking the final four wickets to fall.

Lahiru Thirimanne also turned in a memorable performance, with his 111 representing his first Test hundred in more than seven years.

Sri Lanka had served notice of their willingness to scrap by reaching 156 for two on the third evening – already vastly improved on their previous attempt.

England got off to a good start as they attempted to unpick that hard work, Dom Bess dismissing nightwatchman Lasith Embuldeniya for a duck in the second over of the day via a gentle prod to short cover.

Bess was unable to follow his success with a spell of sustained pressure and dropped short enough to guide Thirimanne from his overnight score of 76 to a long, long-awaited hundred.

On four separate occasions he was able to rock on to his heels and cut the off-spinner for four, the last of which brought up his landmark on the same ground he had last celebrated one in 2013.

Leach was not as costly as Bess but his early efforts were still too timid to move the game forward as he would do later in the day. Instead England had to hang in and hope the new ball would help them out of a hole.

It did just that, with Sam Curran finding a little movement from the hard Kookaburra and clipping the inside edge of Thirimanne’s bat. It briefly looked as if the ball would canon back into the stumps, but Buttler watched it sail over the top and claimed a smart catch.

What followed between lunch and tea was an extended game of cat and mouse, during which just 60 runs came in 29 overs. Stuart Broad paved the way for the slow going, strangling the rate by allowing just one run from a precise five-over spell, and Bess came to the fore again when he picked up Dinesh Chandimal’s outside edge to part a stand of 48 with Angelo Mathews.

Mathews (71) was chipping away carefully, though, and when he and Niroshan Dickwella erased the last of the English advantage things were getting tense. The rising unease was settled somewhat with a double strike from the spinners, Bess drawing a flat-footed prod from Dickwella for his eighth of the match and Leach effectively yorking Dasun Shanaka.

Leach completed England’s long slog in the evening, hoovering up Wanindu Hasaranga and then benefitting from Buttler’s first Test stumping – a smart piece of opportunism ending 28 Tests and 53 innings of waiting as a wicketkeeper. Mathews was last out as he looked to farm the strike but succeeded only in feeding Root.

A winning mark of 74 was bigger than the tourists might have hoped for, but still left them heavy favourites. That tag became lighter by the moment, though, as Sri Lanka proved to be hard-punching underdogs.

Sibley’s apparent vulnerability to spin was first to surface, gifting Embuldeniya his off stump as he misjudged the arm ball. The uncertainty was contagious, Crawley surviving a bad drop by Dickwella before perishing at gully off the nagging left-armer.

Root, fresh from a majestic 228 in the first innings, was back on centre stage much earlier than he would have liked and back in the pavilion with even more regrettable haste.

Called through for a rash single by Bairstow, he was slow to get going, quick to collide with Perera and well short of his ground as the keeper threw down the stumps.

Bairstow and Lawrence played out for the close and will resume on the final morning, where a compelling comeback should finally be extinguished.

Report: Day three

Joe Root completed a masterful double century to keep England in control of the first Test against Sri Lanka, but the hosts responded with some belated batting resolve of their own in Galle.

Captain Root had ended day one on 66, day two on 168 and marched onwards to 228 on the third morning before he was last man down in the tourists’ 421 all out – selflessly sacrificing a big not out.

It was an otherwise flawless effort from the skipper, who pursued and secured his fourth double hundred at this level with utter clarity and mild inevitability over the course of his near eight-hour occupation.

By the time he vacated the crease just before lunch, optimistically trying to clear a raft of boundary riders after an innings built around precise sweeps, the advantage had swelled to a lofty 286.

Sri Lanka’s first innings had been a comedy of errors, culminating in 135 runs and string of sorry dismissals, and any repeat would have brought an early end to proceedings. Instead, the hosts were up for the fight, with Lahiru Thirimanne’s 76 not out leading them to a vastly-improved 156 for two at stumps.

On a turning pitch both Dom Bess and Jack Leach were underwhelming, offering insufficient threat as they managed one wicket between them in 33 overs while failing to stall the run-rate. Leach eventually struck in his 20th over, snaring Kusal Mendis’ outside edge, but more of the same is required on Sunday.

With Moeen Ali out of quarantine 13 days after testing positive for Covid-19, there is a sliver of new pressure on the spinners over the next two days, though it would be a big ask for the all-rounder to be match ready by Friday.

England’s other wicket saw Sam Curran remove Kusal Perera with an unintentional half-tracker, though the left-armer’s luck deserted him when Dom Sibley dropped Thirimanne on 51.

Both teams began well rested after rain wiped out Friday’s evening session but England’s prior momentum remained in place. Root drove the third ball of the day for four to get things up and running before his partner, Jos Buttler, treated himself to a trio of reverse sweeps to the boundary ropes.

Root soon picked up his 8,000th Test run, the seventh Englishman to do so and the second quickest having chalked up the feat in his 178th innings – two more than Kevin Pietersen.

Sri Lanka were passive as the batsmen added 52 in a hurry and were going nowhere until the ball lost shape. Its replacement brought immediate success, Buttler undone by a touch of seam as he nicked Asitha Fernando behind for 30.

The under-used seamer then made it two in two, castling Curran with a yorker first up after the all-rounder had spent 104 overs watching from the dressing room.

Root was undeterred, launching his first six over wide long-on and then reaching 200 with the first of two successive sweeps for four. He marked the moment with a wave for England’s solitary fan.

A poor call saw Dom Bess run out for nought, sacrificed to preserve his skipper and Dilruwan Perera made short work of Jack Leach and Mark Wood before Root holed out aiming for the skies.

Charged with the task of righting the previous wrongs, Kusal Perera and Thirimanne made a point of knuckling down at the top of the order. England used five bowlers in the first 13 overs, with Root’s off-spin soon becoming a sixth option.

Perera and Thirimanne scored 16 and 17 from their first 50 balls respectively, before the former cut loose with a swiped six off Leach followed immediately by a swept four. Moving to his half-century took him just 41 additional balls as the expected chances failed to materialise.

The opener’s celebrations turned to a grimace within a few seconds, Wood smashing him on his wrist with a bouncer that left him requiring heavy strapping, but that was as close as England came as they drew a blank in the afternoon session.

The opening stand had passed three figures when the resistance finally ended, Curran looking slightly bashful after Perera slashed his short, wide offering straight to third man.

There were a few relieved giggles as the fielders converged but Curran would have taken genuine satisfaction had Thirimanne’s thick edge been held by Sibley. Leach finally got one to bite and take Mendis’ edge, the batsman having avoided a fifth straight duck, in a late boost before the gloom descended.

Report: Day two

England captain Joe Root racked up a brilliant unbeaten century and debutant Dan Lawrence announced himself in style as the tourists strengthened their iron grip on the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Just 53 overs were possible as heavy showers topped and tailed the second day but in between Root cruised to a game-shaping 168 not out, an English record on the island and an effort which led his men to a 185-run lead.

Having ended day one in a powerful position, just eight runs behind on 127 for two, the Yorkshireman made sure his side’s dominance only grew with an innings of considerable style and quantifiable substance. At stumps he had helped himself to more than half of the team’s stumps score of 320 for four.

The 30-year-old had spent the entirety of 2020 stuck on 17 Test hundreds but moved the tally along to 18 in his first knock of the new year.

Resuming on 66 not out overnight, he reasserted his status as a master practitioner against spin, utterly secure on the back foot, persistently effective on the sweep and always ready to work the gaps.

Lawrence, though, was taking a step into the unknown after arriving to the crease in the second over of the day following Jonny Bairstow’s early exit for 47.

What followed was a highly impressive calling card in international cricket, with the 23-year-old brimming with confidence and personality before falling for 73.

His first attempt at the top level saw him stick around for 150 balls, hit six fours and one handsome six over wide long-on – all on a dry, turning pitch a world away from his native Essex.

Morning showers delayed the start for over an hour and Bairstow was soon heading straight back to the pavilion, giving Lasith Embuldeniya his third of the match with a prod to gully.

Root had survived an early scare of his own, coming through a tight DRS call for lbw by Dilruwan Perera after just a couple of balls. It had been a good start for the fielding side, who cannot have envisaged at that stage that Root and Lawrence would keep them waiting more than 43 overs for their next success, sharing a bumper 173-run stand along the way.

Lawrence’s only real contribution in the field had been a dropped catch but if there were any lingering nerves he buried them deep. He was off the mark from his very first ball, jogging through for a single, and quickly pummelled a full toss for four to move England into the lead.

He was into double figures in the blink of an eye, using his feet well to meet the pitch and laughing openly when he was almost deceived by Wanindu Hasaranga’s googly.

Root was pulling the strings at the other end, scoring consistently but not dramatically, and seemed happy to allow his young team-mate the freedom to express himself.

After helping himself to a couple more boundaries through the off side – belying his new ‘Legside Larry’ nickname – Lawrence hoisted Embuldeniya for a steepling six over wide long-on, holding the pose for good measure.

He even faced down five dot balls in the final over before lunch to leave his skipper on 99 not out at the interval. Root had already waited since December 2019 for his 18th Test ton and another 40 minutes did not concern him, with the all-important single arriving a couple of balls after the restart.

Fittingly, it came from the sweep shot which he was timing with routine ease and he was soon completing his deferred celebrations. Moments later there was excitement on the field – and from head coach Mickey Arthur on the Sri Lankan balcony – when a reverse-sweep from Root ended up in the hands of short leg, but replays clearly showed an edge into the ground before kicking back up off the glove.

Lawrence, meanwhile, made sure to convert his bright start into something tangible, racking up 50 with a single off his 95th ball. From there a few cracks appeared, Kusal Mendis putting down a catch at gully and wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella parrying a toe edge when Lawrence raced down the ground for a wild-looking swing at Embuldeniya.

He eventually gloved Dilruwan to short-leg after some extra lift from the new ball, but he can be rightly proud of his maiden effort in England whites.

Root showed no sign of letting up, passing Kevin Pietersen’s 151 from 2012 to claim a new England record, and continuing to get the better of a visibly tiring attack. The teams did not get back on after tea, with a heavy downpour doing its work, leaving Root and Jos Buttler to go again on Saturday morning.

Report: Day one

England knocked over a haphazard Sri Lanka for just 135 to take immediate control of the first Test in Galle, with Stuart Broad outstanding and Dom Bess riding his luck all the way to a five-wicket haul.

The tourists were wary of making a sloppy start to the tour after just one day of intra-squad warm-up action since touching down in Hambantota, but instead found themselves cashing in on a dreadfully loose performance from their hosts.

They were all out in just 46.1 overs, losing their top three in the morning session and a cluster of seven for 54 between lunch and tea, with Bess the chief beneficiary of good fortune and rank strokeplay.

Captain Joe Root (66no) and the returning Jonny Bairstow (47no) then compounded the situation, sharing a 110-run stand to bring their side to the brink of parity on 127 for two. Both men negotiated conditions considerably better than the locals and will now fancy building towards a major lead on day two.

Bess would surely admit to being flattered by career-best figures of five for 30, with the dismissal of Dilruwan Perera arguably the only one of the bunch that he could claim as a genuine victory.

Elsewhere Kusal Perera reverse swept his second ball to slip, Niroshan Dickwella carved a long hop to point, Dasun Shanaka was caught after a deflection off Bairstow’s ankle at short leg and Wanindu Hasaranga hit fresh air after leaving all three stumps exposed.

The day began with home captain Dimuth Karunaratne ruled out with a fractured thumb, a blow that should have been softened when his deputy Dinesh Chandimal won the toss and eagerly chose to bat.

That meant an immediate test of England’s decision to go in without record wicket-taker James Anderson, whose absence left Broad to steer the attack.

With no seam movement or swing on offer it looked like it might be a thankless task but he carried on his fine form from 2020 to open up the game. An early chance went begging when Jack Leach misread a top-edge from Kusal Perera at fine leg but he rallied to strike twice in his fourth over.

Lahiru Thirimanne sprung a trap set by Root, flicking Broad off his pads and straight into the hands of the alert Bairstow at leg gully, leaving the seamer prodding his finger in the skipper’s direction by way of thanks. Next up was Kusal Mendis, fresh from three straight ducks against South Africa.

Broad needed just two balls to make it four in a row, hanging a leg cutter outside off stump and watching as the number three lunged at it and edged to Jos Buttler.

Worse was still to come when Kusal, who had scored 20 of his side’s first 25 runs, knelt for a pre-meditated reverse sweep against Bess’ second ball on the sub-continent and gloved to slip. Leach’s opening spell was more threatening than his partner’s but when he drew a mistake from Chandimal, debutant batsman Dan Lawrence dropped the chance at cover.

Chandimal and Angelo Mathews had seen the score to 65 for three at lunch and their partnership was worth 56 when Broad had the latter caught at slip slashing with fixed feet. From there, Sri Lanka sank without a trace.

Top-scorer Chandimal (28) drilled Leach straight to Sam Curran and Dickwella turned a boundary-ball off a loosener from Bess into a simple catch at point. Shanaka was unlucky to see a sweep billow up of Bairstow’s ankle as he took cover, leaving Buttler to scoop the rebound, and Bess finally had cause for real celebration when Dilruwan’s ambitious drive saw him bowled through the gate.

A run-out at the non-striker’s end, via Leach’s fingertip, did for Lasith Embuldeniya as the innings lurched towards it grim conclusion – a botched reverse sweep from an overbalancing Hasaranga.

England’s fell to 17 for two in reply, Embuldeniya nipping out Dom Sibley on the outside edge and persuading Zak Crawley into a mis-hit down the ground, but would soon converge around their Yorkshire-born engine room.

Root and Bairstow both settled into the conditions, favouring back and front foot respectively as they carefully negated a trio of spinners. An overturned lbw decision against Root on 20 proved something of a turning point, with the sedate scoring rate picking up thereafter.

Root began picking the gaps more regularly and increasingly trusted his sweep as a release shot. He dashed through for fifty in 94 balls to leave himself a strong foundation on Friday morning, with Bairstow’s first Test innings in over a year increasingly assured.

He had only two boundaries in his stay but with Root in good touch, he was content to be the reliable anchor at number three.

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