AFP/Galle, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal paid tribute yesterday to an “outstanding” England after Moeen Ali spun the visitors to a commanding first Test victory in what was Rangana Herath’s swansong before retirement.
Set a mammoth 462 to win, sustained pressure from Ali, fellow spinner Jack Leach and aggressive seam bowling from Ben Stokes bundled out the hosts for 250 on day four.
The 211-run victory, England’s first Test win away from home in 13 matches, leaves Joe Root’s men 1-0 up in the three-match series, with the second Test starting in Kandy on Wednesday.
“We played some really good stuff,” Root said. “We can go to Kandy with huge amounts of confidence and look to still improve and get better.”
England had secured a first-innings lead of 139 thanks to a century on debut by Ben Foakes — man of the match — and a formidable spin attack led by Ali and assisted ably by Leach and Adil Rashid restricting Sri Lanka to 203 in reply.
In England’s second innings an assured unbeaten 146 by Keaton Jennings, his first century since a ton on his 2016 debut that has silenced his critics for now at least, allowed Root to declare at 322 for six.
“Our batting was below-par during the game, you can’t stay in the game (with this kind of batting),” said Chandimal.
“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,” he said.
Root, who only managed 35 and 3 with the bat himself, said he was “very proud” of his team, paying tribute to his “excellent” bowling unit and to some “crucial knocks” by England’s batsmen.
“We’ve done our homework and made sure we came here knowing how we were going to try and approach things,” Root said.
“It’s been a fantastic start of things and we’ve got to build on it and make sure we don’t just rest on our laurels now. We will work very hard now before that second Test match and hopefully back up a really good performance.”
Fifteen without loss overnight, Sri Lanka’s openers Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne withstood the pressure from England’s formidable bowling attack for the first hour on Friday.
But both fell after attacking shots, with Kaushal leg before trying to sweep Leach for 30 and Karunaratne caught and bowled by Ali — who took four wickets in both innings — for 26 as he skipped down the pitch for an attempted heave.
Dhananjaya de Silva, after a confident start, was caught at first slip by Root off Stokes in the last over before lunch for 21. The ball earlier he was given out but reprieved on review.
After the break Kusal Mendis hit Leach for four over his head but attempting a repeat the next ball skied the ball to Ali, departing for an otherwise impressive 46.
Chandimal, suffering from a groin injury that kept him off the pitch all of Thursday, was skittled by Leach for 11. Niroshan Dikwella fell the first ball after tea, caught adroitly by Stokes one-handed at slip off Ali for 16.
Soon afterwards Angelo Mathews — dropped on 18 by James Anderson — went for 53, caught by Jos Buttler at midwicket with Ali again the wicket-taker. He was followed into the pavilion by Akila Dananjaya for 8.
Last out was silver fox Herath, cricket’s most successful left-arm spinner, run out for five in his swansong before retirement.
Chandika Hathurusingha, Sri Lanka’s coach, said his side were playing catch-up since lunch on day one when England turned the match around having been five down for 103.
“After that, the way they batted, they took the game away from us. From there on we were chasing the game. In Test cricket, especially on wickets like these, it is very difficult to come back,” he said.
“They outplayed us in all three departments of the game.”
‘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 — Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka captain.
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