A dramatic second day of the first Test between Sri Lanka and England saw 17 wickets tumble for 306 runs. England demonstrated little improvement to their batting against spin in the subcontinent, as they were bowled out for 193 in under 50 overs, gifting the home side a lead of 125. Graeme Swann then chose the perfect moment to rediscover his mojo, taking 4 for 28 to leave Sri Lanka teetering on 84-5 overnight.
Sri Lanka had resumed the day on 289-8. It took James Anderson just 11 balls to dismiss Welegedara, bowling the right-hander for 19 with a slower ball. The wicket took Anderson to fifth in the tally of English Test wicket takers, taking him past Brian Statham, legendary Lancashire and England bowler of the 50’s and 60’s.
It was Anderson who finally ended Mahela Jayawardene’s mammoth innings, the Sri Lankan captain edging behind to leave Sri Lanka a modest total of 318. Jaywardene scored 180, the rest of his team (plus extras) totalled138. The wicket heralded Anderson’s 12th five-for in Test cricket, in tough conditions. Interestingly, neither of England’s frontline spinners took any wickets in the first innings.
England then had a point to prove with the bat. Unfortunately, they proved the wrong one. Their performance against spin was once again dismal. Alistair Cook, usually the rock on which England build any innings, was first to go, Lakmal getting the ball to swing back in, trapping the opener lbw. Cook wanted the review, Strauss rightly send him on his way: replays showing the ball would’ve clipped off stump.
Trott made a promising start, looking in good touch through the covers and mid wicket, before falling foul to Herath in a bizarre fashion. Coming down the pitch, completely missing the full toss, he was stumped by the keeper Prasanna Jayawardene, who then ran into the batsmen as he fruitlessly attempted to get back. Trott was temporarily floored before accepting his fate and trudging back to the pavillion.
Herath continued on his path of destruction, taking a career best 6-74. Strauss, Prior, Patel and Broad fell victim to the spinner, four of the six lbw wickets in the England innings.
Bell was the shining light in the England innings, superbly playing the orthodox spin. His 52 came from 87 balls, with eight fours, and a six. However, he was eventually bowled by a beauty from Herath; the ball spinning past the outside edge and taking out the off bail.
Once again it was left to the bowlers to rescue England, this time with bat in hand. Cameos from Swann (28), Broad (24) and Anderson (23) only proved to further embarrass the top order batsmen, who had to watch their peers demonstrate how good a batting pitch this really was.
Back to the day job then for the bowlers, Broad striking early to remove Dilshan for 0. The Graeme Swann so dearly missed by England in recent months then made a magically timed appearance. His first wicket of the session Thirimanne (6), a beauty of a ball that pitched between middle and leg before turning away to take out the off stump. Mahela Jayawardene (5) and Sangakarra (14) were next, caught at gully and first slip respectively.
Samarweera was the final wicket just before the close, mysteriously coming down the pitch to play a defensive shot to Swann, he was euphorically stumped by Matt Prior. Sri Lanka will begin day three with a lead of 209. Even if the England bowlers can rescue their side once again, and restrict the Sri Lankan lead, it will be down to the batsmen to step up and finally contribute something to their 2012 Test campaign.
In end of day interviews, Ian Bell claimed that they had taken a positive attitude with the bat but overdone it somewhat. Whatever their excuses, the South African 1-0 Test series win in New Zealand means that England need to win or draw this series to remain the number one ranked Test team in the world.