Simply the Bess as Dom’s lucky five-fer puts England in charge
England knocked over a haphazard Sri Lanka for just 135 to take immediate control of the first Test in Galle, with Stuart Broad outstanding and Dom Bess riding his luck all the way to a five-wicket haul.
The tourists were wary of making a sloppy start to the tour after just one day of intrasquad warm-up action since touchingdowninHambantota, but instead found themselves cashinginonadreadfullyloose performancefromtheirhosts.
Theywerealloutinjust46.1 overs, losing their top three in the morning session and a clusterofsevenfor54between lunch and tea, with Bess the chief beneficiary of good fortune and rank strokeplay.
CaptainJoeRoot(66no)and the returning Jonny Bairstow (47no) then compounded the situation, sharing a 110-run stand to bring their side to the brink of parity on 127 for two. Both men negotiated conditions considerably better than the locals and will now fancy building towards a major lead on day two.
Bess would surely admit to being flattered by career-best figures of five for 30, with the dismissal of Dilruwan Perera arguably the only one of the bunch that he could claim as a genuine victory.
Elsewhere Kusal Perera reverse swept his second ball to slip, Niroshan Dickwella carved a long hop to point, Dasun Shanaka was caught after a deflection off Bairstow's ankle at short leg and Wanindu Hasaranga hit fresh air after
leaving all three stumps exposed.
The day began with home captain Dimuth Karunaratne ruled out with a fractured thumb,ablowthatshouldhave been softened when his deputy Dinesh Chandimal won the toss and eagerly chose to bat.
That meant an immediate test of England's decision to go in without record wickettaker James Anderson, whose absence left Broad to steer the attack.
With no seam movement or swing on offer it looked like it might be a thankless task, but he carried on his fine form from2020toopenupthegame by claiming the wickets of Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Mendis.
Chandimal and Angelo Mathews had seen the score to 65 for three at lunch and their partnership was worth 56 when Broad had the latter caught at slip slashing with fixed feet. From there, Sri Lanka sank without a trace.
Top-scorer Chandimal (28) drilled Leach straight to Sam Curran, Bess’ fortune continued while a run-out at the non-striker's end, via Leach's fingertip, did for Lasith Embuldeniya.
England fell to 17 for two in reply, Embuldeniya nipping out Dom Sibley on the outside edge and persuading Zak Crawley into a mis-hit down the ground.
ButRootandBairstowboth settled into the conditions, favouring back and front foot respectively as they carefully negated a trio of spinners. An overturned lbw decision against Root on 20 proved something of a turning point, with the sedate scoring rate picking up thereafter.
Rootbeganpickingthegaps more regularly and increasingly trusted his sweep as a release shot. He dashed through for 50 in 94 balls to leave himself a strong foundation on Friday morning, with Bairstow's increasingly assured. He had only two boundaries but, with Rootingoodtouch,hewascontent to be the reliable anchor.