Spinners hand England authority

England spinners collaborated to pick eight wickets between them – with Moeen Ali leading the pack with four – to pin Sri Lanka on the mat by the time stumps were drawn in Galle after the second day’s play on Wednesday (November 7). The hosts were shot down for just 203 – after Ben Foakes pushed England to 342 with a ton on debut – and then saw the England openers take the team to 38 for no loss to help them gain an overall lead of 177.

It all came crashing down for Sri Lanka in the very first session of the day, as England’s bowlers ran through the cream of the batting line-up.

Before the spinners came out to dominate, the tone was set by the England pacers. Dimuth Karunaratne started with a boundary but that turned out to be a false alarm. James Anderson struck on the second ball of the innings to have the opener caught behind. Karunaratne, rather cryptically, opted for a review and replays made it clear that there was a big spike on UltraEdge. Sam Curran continued to show why he’s rated so highly. After his more than handy 48 with the bat, he kept troubling Kaushal Silva. The left-arm seamer kept taking the ball away from over the wicket and sucked the opener into his plan.

Silva didn’t expect the ball to nip back in, and when it did in the fourth over, he had no answer and was trapped lbw. That was the end of the show from the pacers as Joe Root turned to Jack Leach in the seventh over. The introduction of the left-arm spinner played out just as the England captain had hoped for. Kusal Mendis looked good during his stay but was caught at first slip in the 14th over. Dhananjaya de Silva made a failed attempt at taking on Moeen Ali as Sri Lanka slipped to 40 for 4 by Lunch.

Sri Lanka were much better in the second session losing just one wicket – that of Dinesh Chandimal – but failed quite miserably in the final one. The experienced Sri Lankan duo dug in to take the team past 50, and then 100, and also completed a half-century stand. They were, more often than not, caught in a tangle but did well to keep rotating the strike and not get bogged down. As the partnership swelled, before coming to an end after reaching 75, Adil Rashid had settled into a rhythm. Rashid was the factor that started the slide in the final session.

With less than 30 minutes to go for Tea, the legspinner delivered a snorter. He floated the ball up and then got it to dip to draw Chandimal forward. The ball then bounced, and spun plenty, to go past the outside edge. The Sri Lanka captain was too far down the track and had no chance to get back in before Foakes completed the stumping. Moeen had Mathews caught at short-leg on the first ball after the break to leave the hosts reeling at 136 for 6. Niroshan Dickwella was proactive but wasn’t effective. His 28 came at a good rate but rarely troubled England. He became Moeen’s third wicket when he was caught at cover in the 60th over.

With plenty on offer for the spinners, Sri Lanka were already out of the contest with the England spinners bowling beautifully. They huffed and puffed to cross the 200-run mark as Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath looked to reduce the deficit.

Earlier in the day, Foakes became the first England ‘keeper to score a century in Sri Lanka. When England lost Leach, Foakes was left with few options and was forced to attack. He got to his century by stroking two boundaries in the 97th over but the assault didn’t last long. He was caught at cover trying to take on Lakmal but had done more than enough to help his team breathe easy after they were tottering at 103 for 5.

Brief scores: England 342 & 38/0 (Keaton Jennings 26*) lead Sri Lanka 203 (Angelo Mathews 52; Moeen Ali 4-66) by 177 runs.

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