Sri Lanka, out of form and out of luck so far on their tour of England, found both in abundance here yesterday. In the three weeks they have spent in this country the weather has been miserable, but at last the sun shone and it was matched in its intensity and brilliance by Sri Lanka's batting.
Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene, with an exquisite partnership of 206, made the most of some indifferent bowling and left Nasser Hussain and his England team, in no doubt why Sri Lanka are rated the third best side in the world.
On a glorious day there can be no better looking sporting arena than this and the pair thoroughly enjoyed themselves. There is something wonderful about watching natural rather than coached batsmen bat. There is an elegance, a fluidity of movement, an instinctiveness that catches the eye and leaves you open-mouthed.
On a day when the tourists rattled up 314 for 3, Atapattu whose 133 was the 10th Test century of his international career and his second against England started his innings watchfully, playing with the straightest of bats. Content in pushing twos and threes rather than smacking fours, the closest England came to dismissing him was run out. A direct hit from Michael Vaughan interested the third umpire but the green light flashed and he never looked back. His driving down the ground was a great example to any young player.
Jayawardene, a wristier player than his partner, appears to have a penchant for this ground. This was his second international hundred at HQ, the other coming against England in the final of the 1998 triangular one-day series. The little Sri Lankan scored most of his ninth Test hundred square of the wicket. This wonderful timer of the ball hardly seems to touch the thing before it races away to the boundary.
England tested him with the short ball, but this line of attack, other than a painful blow to his right hip which necessitated the services of a runner, appeared to cause him little discomfort at all. He offered just one chance on 87. Dominic Cork was the unfortunate bowler as Alec Stewart failed to hold a leg-side edge. Other than that, like Atapattu, he looked in total control.
This run feast was launched bySanath Jayasuriya, the Sri Lankan captain, winning the toss. With the sky blue and the pitch drying by the minute, he had no hesitation in opting to bat. Looking at England's eagerness to get into action – they beat the umpires by a good minute – the impression was that Hussain may well have wanted to bowl first anyway.
Early movement is what Hussain would have been looking for, but it did not appear and Jayasuriya made his intentions clear. The third ball of Matthew Hoggard's first over was crashed through the covers for four. Hoggard and Andrew Caddick, England's opening pair, looked at odds with themselves, Hoggard bowling no-balls and Caddick giving the appearance he was searching for a length, rather than hitting it with aggression and purpose.
Then Jayasuriya, for reasons only he can explain to himself, decided to take on Vaughan's arm for a third run that was never there. At full stretch, his dive fell short and the third umpire – Jeremy Lloyds – rightly gave him out.
Kumar Sangakkara soon followed his captain but this was again more down to poor judgement than good bowling. He guided a delivery from Hoggard, who went for six an over in his opening spell, into the safe hands of Andrew Flintoff at second slip.
For England, this was as good as it got in the morning and afternoon sessions, as Sri Lanka took the firmest of grips on this game, nonchalantly easing along without a care.
Hussain tried everything he could, rotating his bowlers and giving them spells at either end but they failed to make the breakthrough. Hussain must have been very disappointed with the way his bowlers bowled. They swung the new ball a little but failed to bowl with the discipline required. Runs were picked off on both sides of the wicket and the fact they bowled only 12 maidens, gives a good indication of their lack of control.
It was a surprise when Jayawardene lazily chipped Flintoff to Marcus Trescothick at mid-wicket but that only brought the talents of Aravinda de Silva to the crease. With two batsmen who have scored 11 Test hundreds between them still to come and Atapattu renowned for going on to score double centuries – in five of his nine centuries before this Test he has gone on to 200 plus – England's bowlers will realise they still have a lot of hard work to do.
First day; Sri Lanka won toss
SRI LANKA First Innings
M S Atapattu not out 133
382 min, 264 balls, 15 fours
*S T Jayasuriya run out 18
36 min, 25 balls, 3 fours
ÝK C Sangakkara c Flintoff b Hoggard 10
26 min, 17 balls, 2 fours
D P M Jayawardene c Trescothick
b Flintoff 107
224 min, 168 balls, 17 fours
P A de Silva not out 24
93 min, 76 balls, 3 fours
Extras (lb7, w1, nb14) 22
Total (for 3, 384 min, 90 overs) 314
Fall: 1-38 (Jayasuriya), 2-55 (Sangakkara), 3-261 (Jayawardene).
To bat: H P Tillakaratne, R P Arnold, T C B Fernando, W P U J C Vaas, D N T Zoysa, P D R L Perera.
Bowling: Caddick 17-2-62-0 (5-0-17-0, 3-0-15-0, 6-1-20-0, 3-1-10-0); Hoggard 23-2-99-1 (nb7, w1) (8-1-47-1, 5-0-14-0, 7-0-34-0, 3-1-4-0); Cork 19-4-58-0 (nb2) (6-1-19-0, 3-0-16-0, 3-1-10-0, 7-2-13-0); Flintoff 20-3-52-1 (nb1) (5-2-11-0, 7-0-21-0, 5-1-11-1, 3-0-9-0); Butcher 3-0-17-0 (one spell); Vaughan 8-1-19-0 (2-0-7-0, 6-1-12-0).
Progress: 50: 56 min, 11.5 overs. 100: 113 min, 24.4 overs. Lunch: 110-2 (Atapattu 46, Jayawardene 26) 27 overs. 150: 168 min, 37.5 overs. 200: 236 min, 51.3 overs. Tea: 217-2 (Atapattu 90, Jayawardene 81) 54 overs. 250: 278 min, 62.1 overs. New ball: taken after 83 overs at 296-3. 300: 358 min, 83.5 overs.
Atapattu 50: 138 min, 86 balls, 6 fours. 100: 271 min, 177 balls, 13 fours.
Jayawardene 50: 120 min, 84 balls, 9 fours. 100: 214 min, 157 balls, 16 fours.
ENGLAND: M E Trescothick, M P Vaughan, M A Butcher, *N Hussain, G P Thorpe, J P Crawley, ÝA J Stewart, A Flintoff, D G Cork, A R Caddick, M J Hoggard.
Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).Reuse content