SCHOOLBOY FRIENDS TEAM UP FOR TEST MATCH WICKET
Somerset’s Leach and Buttler combine to claim Test match wicket in Sri Lanka
SOMERSET’S Jack Leach fulfilled an ambition which was years in the making during England’s dominant second day against Sri Lanka, linking up with childhood friend Taunton-born Jos Buttler on the biggest stage of all.
The tourists had plenty of reasons to celebrate as they grabbed control of the first Test - from Ben Foakes adding two catches and a stumping to his memorable debut century to Moeen Ali’s four-wicket haul at Sri Lanka’s favourite spinning venue of Galle.
Throw in wickets for four other bowlers, 12 drama-free overs to start England’s second innings and a 177run lead and there was much for the travelling fans to be satisfied about.
But for Taunton-born Leach it was a personal moment that drew the biggest release of emotion, Buttler hanging on at cover when Dilruwan Perera went after the slow left-armer - reprising a partnership first seen at Somerset Under-11s.
“I was just running at him shouting ‘caught Buttler, bowled Leach!’. Those were my exact words,” he said.
“That was a nice moment for me and I hope for him, as well. To be out there with him is something very special for me.
“It’s brilliant. We started at under11s together. That would have been the first ever ‘caught Buttler, bowled Leach’.
“To be in an England shirt together is very special. It makes us proud and a lot of people back home proud as well.”
Leach started the day hoping to have the best seat in the house for Foakes’ hundred, walking to the middle with England 321 for eight and with the Surrey wicketkeeper 13 runs short of his landmark.
When Leach nicked to slip, Foakes still needed five more.
“I was gutted when I got out, I was desperate to get him over the line,” said Leach.
“I couldn’t do it but Jimmy Anderson did it so that’s fine. I was jumping up and down in the changing room when he got there.”
Reflecting on the moment he became the 20th England player to hit a hundred on debut, and only the second gloveman after Matt Prior, Foakes added: “When I hit that ball it was a relief to say the least.
“It’s a weird feeling, just so much relief. Joy and whatnot too, but just relief at finally doing something you set out to do as a kid. It was incredible.
“England have got so many good keepers I never thought I’d get a game to be honest... the last couple of years I probably didn’t think this would come.”
Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns were due up first this morning for England, having already built a platform of 38 for nought, their task having been made easier by the efforts of the bowling unit, who hustled the hosts out for 203 in just 68 overs.
“It pretty much went to plan for us,” admitted Leach.
“We talked at the start of the day about trying to get as many runs as we could and when we went out to bowl just putting as much pressure on as possible.
“We felt we had a good total on the board and what Joe (Root, captain) asked of us, we pretty much did it.”
ENGLAND tamed Sri Lanka in their own conditions on day two of the second Test in Galle, with Ben Foakes’ dream debut and a ruthless display of spin bowling putting them in full control.
The tourists batted at the start and the end of the day - all out for 342 then 38 without loss at stumps - and in between rolled Sri Lanka over for 203 in just 68 overs.
With a lead of 177 and three days to go, a first English victory at this famed Sri Lankan stronghold is well within sight.
Foakes started the day by putting the finishing touches to a classy maiden century and was last man out for 107 after adding 20 his overnight score.
He then gave a taste of the wicketkeeping skills which earned him his call-up in the first-place. Dimuth Karunaratne allowed the Surrey man to open his international account after just two balls in the field, feeling for James Anderson’s outswinger, and later he produced a highly accomplished stumping to break Sri Lanka’s best partnership of the day.
There was one more chance to impress and he duly took it, pouch- ing a thick edge safely standing up to the stumps in the midst of a Sri Lankan collapse which saw them cough up a potentially match-defining firstinnings deficit.
There is a potentially ticklish dilemma coming for the selectors, with Foakes giving every impression of being undroppable and previous incumbent Jonny Bairstow recovering fast from his ankle injury.
To focus solely on Foakes’ contributions would be to do a major disservice to the England attack, though, and particularly their trio of tweakers.
Sri Lanka are used to bundling visiting teams out with spin in Galle but here they were the prey, losing eight wickets to the turning ball. Moeen Ali led the way with four for 66 while Adil Rashid and Jack Leach took two apiece.
With Anderson and Sam Curran removing one opener each with the fleeting swing offered by the new ball, things were going close to plan in the field.
All that was needed to put a ribbon on the day was for Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns, fit after a blow to the back of the neck fielding at short leg, to negotiate 12 overs before stumps and they did so with minimal fuss.
Play began with England 321 for eight and several thousand sets of fingers crossed that Leach and Anderson could linger long enough to see Foakes from 87 to 100.
He promptly stroked the first ball of the day for four and was five short of his landmark when Leach nicked Dilruwan Perera to slip. A nervy moment, perhaps, but one Foakes banished with two more boundaries, pulling Suranga Lakmal to fine leg then punching back down the ground to celebrate in style.
He was gone moments later but had already inked his name into the record books as England’s 20th debut centurion and just the second wicketkeeper, following Matt Prior in 2007.
The Sri Lanka innings was topped and tailed with a cluster of wickets, 42 for four in 19 overs before lunch and 67 for five in the 19 overs after tea.
What happened in the afternoon session was a cool-headed aberration as both Dinesh Chandimal (33) and Angelo Mathews (52) knuckled down. Only Foakes’ stumping of the former prevented England going wicketless for two hours.
Either side they batted raggedly. Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva both failed to see the shine off the ball, after which it was spin all the way.
Leach’s nagging discipline earned him the scalps of Kusal Mendis and Perera, while Rashid was used more sparingly on his way to two for 30.
Moeen reaped the biggest rewards, though, bowling Dhananjaya de Silva on the sweep and getting the key scalp of Mathews with the first ball after tea. By now in a groove, he tempted Niroshan Dickwella and Akila Dananjaya to give up catches in successive overs.
England bowler Jack Leach, left, congratulates Jos Buttler after the pair combined to dismiss Sri Lanka batsman Diruwan Perera
England’s Keaton Jennings, right, successfully takes a catch to dismiss Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews