Controlling the controllable” is among the recent buzzwords in cricket. For a bowling side, it means not overstepping, taking the catches that come their way and bowling in channels that will ensure sustained pressure on the batsmen. It means everything that Sri Lanka failed to do in the post Lunch session on the second day, as Joe Root’s record 168* helped England further their position of dominance in the first Test, helping the visitors to 320 for 4 at the Galle International Stadium, on Friday (January 15).
As the England batters looked to up their tempo and played some aggressive strokes post Lunch, Sri Lankan bowlers managed to induce more edges. However, Daniel Lawrence was dropped twice – on 63 and 70. The debutant, who displayed exemplary application on the turning wicket, however couldn’t make the most of those opportunities as he eventually departed on 73, getting an inside edge while defending an off break delivery off the backfoot to the forward short leg fielder. However, by then, their 173-run stand for the fourth wicket had pushed the hosts far behind in the contest.
However, for a good part of the post Lunch session, with runs flowing quickly, Sri Lankan spinners often failed to hit the right lengths. The short-pitched deliveries, much like in the previous session, were cashed in on by Root and Lawrence. Root, who was playing second fiddle to the debutant in the morning session, switched gears and took the role of the aggressor soon after reaching his 18th Test century, off the second ball after Lunch. With the Sri Lankan bowlers unable to transfer pressure, Lawrence too brought up his maiden fifty soon after.
However, when the spinners were hitting the right lengths, they induced edges and beat the bat often, allowing the close-in fielders to be in play at all times. Thus, even as the batsmen started going over the in-field more often as the fourth wicket partnership flourished, there was enough reason for the Sri Lankan skipper to not meddle with the inside-out field placements.
Even after the fall of Lawrence’s wicket, Root remained unfettered in his approach. After already having gone past Kevin Pietersen’s record for the highest score by an English batsman in Sri Lanka – at 151 – he marched on to 168* at Tea, not slowing down even towards the end of the session. He too got a life when his sweep hit Kusal Mendis straight on the body in the last over before Tea.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 135 (Dinesh Chandimal 28, Angelo Mathews 27; Dom Bess 5-30, Stuart Broad 3-20) trail England 320/4 (Joe Root 168*, Dan Lawrence 73; Lasith Embuldeniya 3-131) by 185 runs.