Rashid puts Eng­land in com­mand

Spin­ner takes five wick­ets as Eng­land seize con­trol Bril­liant Jen­nings grabs four catches at short leg

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Scyld Berry CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Colombo

Clever Trevor, yet again. From the mo­ment he was in­stalled as Eng­land’s head coach in 2015, Trevor Bayliss has al­ways wanted the Test team to in­clude an at­tack­ing No 3 bats­man and two spin­ners, one of whom turns the ball both ways, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian ideal – and he be­ing a Syd­ney-sider. Now they are fully equipped, Joe Root’s team have rock­eted to No2 in the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil rank­ings and are about to make their own piece of his­tory as the first Eng­land team to make a 3-0 sweep in Sri Lanka.

The day af­ter Jonny Bairstow slot­ted in as the at­tack­ing No3 by scor­ing 110, an­other York­shire­man ran through Sri Lanka by spin­ning the ball both ways. It was Adil Rashid’s best Test per­for­mance – and his best Test fig­ures – as he en­joyed the re­duced pres­sure with the se­ries al­ready won and sliced through their first in­nings with five for 49. He bowled a steady line, only dragged the ball down once or twice, and blended his leg-break and goo­gly in a per­fect com­bi­na­tion.

It was in­deed a bowl­ing part­ner­ship that would have made a stronger coun­try than a de­mor­alised Sri Lanka col­lapse as Rashid looped and turned his spin­ners from one end and Ben Stokes brought his bat­ter­ing ram at the other.

Stokes’s con­tri­bu­tion was no less wor­thy, given that his three-wicket spell was de­liv­ered in sap­ping heat and he equalled the num­ber of wick­ets that Eng­land’s pace bowlers had taken pre­vi­ously in this spin-dom­i­nated se­ries: James An­der­son, ap­pear­ing here in a yel­low bib as 12th man, Stu­art Broad, who bowled quickly and had two slip catches dropped by Root, Sam Cur­ran, who is in­jured, and Stokes him­self.

Rashid and Stokes were fi­nally paired af­ter Eng­land’s three overnight wick­ets had added 24 more runs, to make a com­pe­tent, but not for­mi­da­ble to­tal of 336, and Sri Lanka had stroked their way to their strong­est po­si­tion in this se­ries, 173 for one. Root had wisely al­lowed Broad and Jack Leach first use of the new ball – only to drop Dimuth Karunaratne to his right and Dhanan­jay de Silva to his left at widish slip, the bats­men then com­bin­ing for a sec­ond­wicket stand of 142.

Eng­land had a third wicket-taker, not a bowler at all, but Keaton Jen­nings, who con­tributed four short-leg catches, one su­perla­tive and two bril­liant. If only he brought such phys­i­cal flex­i­bil­ity to his style of bat­ting, his place as opener would not be in doubt.

The su­perla­tive catch was proac­tive, as he fol­lowed left-handed opener Danushka Gu­nathi­laka down the pitch when he at­tacked Jack Leach, match­ing him stride for stride. Brave too, be­cause when the left-han­der swung to leg, Jen­nings kept his eyes on the ball, which came to him off bat and pad and which he pouched in his midriff, then hands. Jen­nings’s catch to dis­miss Karunaratne was stan­dard fare, a batand-pad chance in­duced by Rashid af­ter tea. His other two catches were bril­liant re­ac­tions. De Silva hit the ball straight to him, but it was a well-mid­dled de­fen­sive stroke, at some pace; Roshen Silva in­side-edged Rashid’s goo­gly and Jen­nings took it in his left hand low down.

James Tay­lor did out­stand­ing work at short leg for Eng­land’s pace bowlers in South Africa in 2015-16, but no­body – in the era of hel­mets at any rate – can have put on a finer dis­play in the po­si­tion than Jen­nings.

Ben Foakes badly dam­aged the fingers of his left hand when stop­ping a ball from Stokes on the half-vol­ley. Bairstow waited pa­tiently for the call – or re­call – at deep square leg, but it never came. Foakes car­ried on to take three catches off Stokes as he bounced the Sri Lankans from over and round the wicket, get­ting them to edge a hook, or glance down leg side, or fend off their gloves to the keeper. But Stokes had to rat­tle the Sri Lankans first, in his spell of four overs be­fore tea, fol­lowed by an­other six af­ter­wards un­til he was al­most out on his feet.

He hit Karunaratne in the chest, then Kusal Mendis on the wrist, be­fore bounc­ing out his three wick­ets. One could only won­der at the stan­dard of first-class do­mes­tic cricket in Sri Lanka if such a ba­sic form of at­tack could be so re­ward­ing on a slow pitch.

Eng­land, in truth, un­der­per­formed with the bat first time round, aside from Bairstow with his scin­til­lat­ing stroke­play: a lit­tle more pa­tience and they would have made this match safe by post­ing 400-plus. But Sri Lanka were in no po­si­tion to pun­ish Eng­land, and af­ter this se­ries they face a dif­fi­cult pe­riod against the fast bowlers of the south­ern hemi­sphere as they tour New Zealand, Aus­tralia and South Africa.

Rashid al­most caught up with his fel­low spin­ners in this se­ries, by reach­ing 12 wick­ets, against the 14 taken by Moeen Ali and Leach. He added a runout with a di­rect hit from mid-off, while Jen­nings also de­served a five-wicket haul of his own.

The best of his catches in this se­ries – never for­get­ting his palm­ing of a catch to Foakes off a sweep at Kandy – could have been en­tered in the score­book sim­ply as “c Jen­nings”, without any need to credit the bowler.

Dom­i­nant: Keaton Jen­nings (front left) along with bowler Adil Rashid (right) cel­e­brate the dis­missal of Sri Lanka’s Roshen Silva dur­ing the se­cond day of the third Test

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