Magical Mahela punishes Panesar for sloppy drops

Sri Lanka's captain hits graceful unbeaten century but England put him down four times in field after early wobble by the hosts

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The Independent Online

On the eve of the first Test, Mahela Jayawardene mused on how the series might hinge on who broke first. He clearly had no intention of it being him.

Leading Sri Lanka in a Test for the first time in three years, he navigated them to a position of safety after they had skirted close to the rocks. He made his 30th Test hundred, an unbeaten 168, the next highest score being 27. He was dropped on 64, 90, 147 and 152 but now he has got money in his pocket again, after the Sri Lanka board paid its players for the first time in almost a year, he has a renewed purpose.

At 15 for 3, with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad using the new ball, Sri Lanka were in danger of collapse. But Jayawardene's graceful innings allowed considerable redemption.

England should have removed him. The first two chances fell to Anderson, the second pair to Monty Panesar. On 64, Jayawardene received a ball from Graeme Swann which surprised him with turn and bounce. Taking the shoulder of the bat, the ball looped over Anderson. Jayawardene again escaped when he prodded a slower ball back at Anderson. The game had moved on when Panesar failed to grab a catch at long leg and Jayawardene was 152 when Panesar shelled a skier at mid-on.

Anderson was admirable in becoming the sixth England bowler to 250 Test wickets, as was almost all of England's attack, including Samit Patel on his debut, the answer to what England would do about their need for a fifth bowler. It was the first time for almost 20 years that they took the field with three spinners.

With his eighth ball of the series, Anderson produced a beauty for Lahiru Thirimanne. Swann pouched a smart catch to his right at second slip. In came Kumar Sangakkara. Ninety times out of 100 he would have left the ball six inches outside off. But he jabbed and Matt Prior did the rest.

In the following over, Stuart Broad produced a lovely ball to Tillakaratne Dilshan, cramping him. The edge was taken by Strauss at first slip. Everything was going England's way and shortly after lunch Anderson touched a drive from Jayawardene on to the stumps to run out Thilan Samaraweera.

But Jayawardene ensured he scored off the bad balls. With Dinesh Chandimal he assembled another half-century stand before Chandimal gave Patel a maiden Test wicket with a grotesque heave across the line. Two balls and 30 overs later Patel, having been removed immediately from the attack, had his second when Rangana Herath was lbw.