England dominate 'farcical' Sri Lanka in day one of First Test as they finish 127-2 and trail hosts by eight runs

DOM BESS took the easiest five wickets of his career as England dominated their crazy first day of cricket in 2021.

If Covid-19 restrictions and an empty ground were not unusual enough, a catalogue of terrible shots and freakish dismissals took the match into the realms of the farcical.

Spinner Bess was the chief beneficiary and finished with 5-30 as Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 135 on day one of the First Test.

Stuart Broad continued his sensational form of last summer with three wickets and, by the close, England had reached 127-2 with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow so far having put on 110.

Root was given out lbw to left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya for 20 but a review showed the ball going over the stumps. England’s captain is 66 not out with Bairstow on 47.

Bess didn’t actually bowl that well and his wickets came courtesy of two reverse sweeps, a long hop, a deflected catch off Bairstow’s leg at short leg and a missed extravagant drive.

But he sure as heck won’t be complaining. Bess knows he will bowl much better on other days and finish wicketless.

Sri Lanka’s batsmen mainly self-destructed with a string of weird and wacky shots. Their top scorer was stand-in skipper Dinesh Chandimal with just 28 after he won the toss.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain, speaking on Sky TV, said: “Abysmal is a kind way to describe Sri Lanka’s batting. It was a joke by the end. I think it was the most farcical 46 overs of Test cricket I’ve ever seen.”

Sri Lanka lost their regular captain and opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne with a broken thumb before the start. And they were soon in trouble.


Left-hander Lahiru Thirimanne guided Broad straight to Bairstow at leg gully and then Kusal Mendis extended his nightmare sequence by edging his second delivery. Mendis now has four ducks on the trot.

When Kusal Perera’s attempted reverse sweep to Bess’ second ball ended in Root’s hands at slip, Sri Lanka were 25-3.

Angelo Mathews and Chandimal – their two most experienced players – threatened a revival with a fourth-wicket stand of 56 but then Mathews was caught by Root at slip as he aimed a back-foot force against Broad.

That gave Broad his third wicket which followed the 29 he took last summer at 13.41 – a good enough performance for him to feature in the top six of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.

Chandimal had been badly dropped on 22 by debutant Dan Lawrence at cover – an absolute dolly – but it didn’t prove expensive. Chandimal drove carelessly at Jack Leach was well held low down in the covers by Sam Curran.

Niroshan Dickwella hit the first delivery of a new Bess spell – a horrible long hop – straight to backward point. Bess looked almost embarrassed.

Then Dasun Shanaka swept at Bess, the ball struck a leaping Bairstow trying to take evasive action and ricocheted gently into Jos Buttler’s gloves.

Dilruwan Perera was bowled aiming something ambitious at Bess and then Embuldeniya was run out at the non-striker’s end when Leach finger-tipped a drive onto the stumps.

The innings finished in suitably grim fashion when Hasaranga de Silva tried to reverse sweep Bess. Inevitably, he missed.

In reply, England endured a couple of early wobbles. Dom Sibley was given out caught at slip on review after the ball brushed his outside edge and then bounced off his back thigh.

Then Zak Crawley attempted a big hit and succeeded only in holing out to mid-off. Crawley’s shot was little better than the catalogue of clangers produced by Sri Lanka.

But Root and Bairstow made sure there were no further mishaps and England will enter day two in control. Root, in particular, was playing spin bowling with calm assurance and an unhurried tempo.

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