Roshen Silva gives Sri Lanka vital lead in Kandy
A sensational 85 from Roshen Silva gave Sri Lanka an unlikely lead against a lacklustre England bowling attack on day 2 of the second Test in Pallekelle.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne and Dananjaya de Silva, promoted to number 4, also hit half centuries as England’s spin trio of Moeen Ali, Jack Leach and Adil Rashid failed to give control to captain Joe Root, who himself bowled eight overs as the away team toiled in the afternoon sun.
Leach, as nightwatchman, had a single over of Perera’s off-spin to see off before the close, to leave the tourists with a big job to do to get themselves back ahead after a strong start to the Test.
After the first day was dominated by spin, the visitors began the day with Moeen and Leach.
It didn’t take long before Sri Lanka’s nightwatchman was removed – Malinda Pushpakumara heaving one from Moeen to deepish midwicket where Rory Burns took an easy catch in just the third over of the day.
Karunaratne, who had remained watchful in the evening session on the first day, continued to dig in during the morning and began to utilise the sweep on both sides of the wicket to great effect.
At the other end Dhananjaya de Silva, looking to solidify his place as a top-order batsman as well as useful off-spinner, also played nicely; Adil Rashid was poor in his first spell when introduced in the 13th over of the day, and Karunaratne brought up his 50 off 94 balls on the stroke of drinks, with Sri Lanka 97 for 2, cruising along at over 4 and over for the first hour.
Root probably didn’t expect to be bowling himself and James Anderson by in the morining session, but such was the ease with which Sri Lanka scored, the England captain had to look away from his spin trio to make something happen.
But nothing was forthcoming, and Karunaratne and de Silva played beautifully to put on 96 for the third wicket, before Ben Stokes produced the piece of magic England were searching for.
De Silva dropped one into the covers and called for a tight single, where Stokes, running round from gully and with one stump to aim at, threw down the wickets brilliantly to leave Karunaratne six inches short and Sri Lanka 127 for 3 twenty minutes before lunch.
After producing the moment of the morning, Root brought on Stokes for a burst of short bowling before the interval.
Despite no breakthrough, the allrounder, not being one to stay out of the game, produced another moment of brilliance from the other end.
Leach drew a thin edge from Kusal Mendis which flew past wicket keeper Foakes’ gloves, and Stokes plucked the ball out of the air with his left hand.
The Durham all-rounder showing yet again what a valuable asset a world-class fielder is at this level.
England, who had toiled for most of the morning, had suddenly turned the morning their way, and were satisfied with their session’s work – Sri Lanka 139 for 4 at lunch with the excellent de Silva 57 not out.
Rashid continued after lunch. His first over in the afternoon was a shocking selection of long hops that were barely within reach of de Silva and Angelo Matthews who had come out to bat shortly before lunch.
However, in a classic moment of leg-spinners contradiction, Rashid then bowled de Silva an absolute beauty to have him caught behind with a delivery that pitched on middle and spat off the crumbling pitch to take a thin edge through to Ben Foakes.
In the context of these match conditions, any scores of fifty-plus are worth perhaps double to most Tests, and Dhananjaya’s 59 off 98 balls may prove to be a hugely important effort for the hosts.
Rashid continued to find turn and bounce, and the occasional boundary ball was seen as collateral damage by captain Root – an attitude which was rewarded when the leg-spinner picked up his second wicket, this time the precious one of Mathews, again caught by the excellent Foakes after he parried one up from another edge when playing forward to a turning delivery.
England, flying through their overs at 16 an hour, still felt just about on top as Dickwella and Roshen saw Sri Lanka through to drinks without further alarm on 193 for 6.
By tea the game felt nicely poised, the only action in the second half of the afternoon session was the wicket of the dangerous Dickwella who fell LBW to Root for 26 off 33 balls.
Perera joined Roshen at the crease to steer Sri Lanka to 244 for 7 at the tea interval.
Roshen remained steadfast after the break and duly passed 50, Sri Lanka’s third half-centurion, before Leach had Perera trapped LBW for 15.
The new ball was taken with Sri Lanka only 18 runs behind. Anderson immediately found some swing, and Leach enjoyed more turn and bounce, finding Roshen’s edge only for Stokes to put down a sharp chance at slip. But no new-ball breakthrough for the tourists.
The biggest talking point after tea came in the most bizarrre circumstances. Roshen hit Leach to the boundary, thought the ball had gone for four, so made no attempt to ground his bat.
On realising the ball had pulled up short, he then turned to complete a phantom second run, and umpire Marais Erasmus awarded England 5 penalty runs to add to their first innings total for not attempting to complete the run, meaning they visiting side were retrospectively bowled out for 290 rather than the 285 they thought they had accumulated on Day 1.
Akila Dananjaya played briskly and effectively to take Sri Lanka past England’s total, and Sam Curran’s introduction (75 overs into the day) did nothing to add discomfort to hosts’ rearguard effort.
Jos Buttler put down a tough chance at cover off Anderson, but still Sri Lanka presssed on and the steadfast Silva even started to show some aggression, lifting Moeen over long-on to take Sri Lanka over 300 at evening drinks, bringing up the fifty partnership in the process.
England finally took the ninth wicket with Sri Lanka on 308 thanks to a Moeen quicker one that Dananjaya played round to be plumb LBW, and after an agonising 45 minute period towards the close, Sri Lanka continued to frustrate a beleaguered England attack as captain Lakmal added 28 for the last wicket before home team were eventually bundled out for 336 when Silva finally holed out to Rashid at mid-on to bring to an end a brilliant innings of 85.
England, now 46 behind at the half way stage, had to come out and face a difficult over from Perera, which Leach duly did without adding runs to the total.
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