A plethora of cricket greats have savaged Sri Lanka after an embarrassing display on the opening day of the first Test against England.
England were in a strong position at stumps on the first day in Galle after Dom Bess took five wickets to bowl out Sri Lanka for a paltry 135.
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An unbeaten 110-run partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Jow Root saw England to 127-2 at stumps on Thursday, trailing by just eight runs, with the opportunity to go on and build a significant lead after Sri Lanka posted the lowest first-innings score in a Test at the Galle International Stadium.
Bess took 5-30 off just 10.1 overs with strong back-up from Stuart Broad (3-20) as the home side failed to take advantage of winning the toss with some wayward batting.
Bess got off to the perfect start when he took the wicket of the dangerous Kusal Perera with only his second ball of the morning.
Attempting an ambitious reverse sweep, Perera succeeded only in top edging the ball to Root at slip to depart for 20, the first of several ill-considered shots from the home batsmen.
Niroshan Dickwella was caught at backward point for 12 while Dasun Shanaka, who scored 23, went in bizarre circumstances, sweeping his shot onto the ankle of Bairstow at short leg, popping it up into the air for wicketkeeper Jos Buttler to claim.
The manner of Sri Lanka’s dismissals left a number of cricket greats gobsmacked, with former England captains Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and Michael Vaughan savaging the home side.
“I think abysmal is being kind – it was absolutely ridiculous,” Hussain said after play.
“You think of some of the greats Sri Lanka have had – what must they be thinking looking at a batting performance like that? It was farcical.
“I’d love to know how many of those Sri Lankan batsmen walked into the dressing room and thought ‘I got out to a decent delivery’, it was none of them. It was a joke by the end.
“There were people diving in, people reverse-sweeping – that was the most farcical 46 overs of Test cricket I have seen in my life and if Sri Lanka lose this game it’s because of how abysmal they have been.”
Atherton said it was “some of the worst Test match batting I have ever seen”.
“It’s great for Dom Bess that he’s got a five-for but he’s never going to get a cheaper one than that because he really didn’t bowl all that well,” Atherton said.
Vaughan took to Twitter, writing: “Those 46.1 overs have been the worst possible advertisement for Test Cricket … it’s supposed to be the pinnacle … that was utter garbage Sri Lanka.”
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) January 14, 2021
Sri Lanka batting coach Grant Flower described it as the worst batting he’d ever seen.
“I can't explain it. I’ve been with the team for a year. It’s the worst batting I've seen. It’s purely mental I think. I don’t have any reasons to explain that,” Flower told ESPN Cricinfo.
“Every single batsman should take the blame. They've only got themselves to blame.
“One of the guys was unlucky - Dasun Shanaka - when it came off Jonny Bairstow's ankle. But the rest just got themselves out.
“There was some decent bowling, but the pitch isn’t a minefield.”
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Root and Bairstow steadied matters after spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, who opened the bowling, had removed England openers Dom Sibley (4) and Zak Crawley (9) cheaply.
Root, in his 98th Test, survived a leg before decision when on 20, which was overturned on review, before reaching his half century off 94 balls.
He will resume on Friday on 66 with Bairstow playing a strong supporting role with 47 not out.
Preferred to England’s record Test wicket taker James Anderson, Broad earlier bagged opener Lahiru Thirimanne and struggling Kusal Mendis in the same over for the first two wickets of the Test and then added Angelo Mathews after lunch.
Dinesh Chandimal, who took over the captaincy from injured Dimuth Karunaratne, top scored for the hosts with 28.
Sri Lanka were forced to leave out Karunaratne due to a fractured thumb - another injury blow to a team that suffered several setbacks on their tour of South Africa earlier this month.
“You don't get days much better than these in the subcontinent,” Broad added.
“Bowling a team out cheaply and getting close to them two down is fantastic.
“Bairstow and Rooty showed their class. They played with great calmness and composure, but playing their aggressive options in the way they wanted to.
“As day ones go, we're delighted in the England camp but we know there's a lot of cricket to be played.”
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