England vs Sri Lanka report: James Anderson tears through Sri Lankan batting order to seal First Test victory

England 298, Sri Lanka 91 & 119

Charles Reynolds
Headingley
Saturday 21 May 2016 13:42
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James Anderson and Alastair Cook celebrate the First Test victory over Sri Lanka
James Anderson and Alastair Cook celebrate the First Test victory over Sri Lanka

England twice breezed through Sri Lanka’s batting line-up and fought back to recover from the inadequate early efforts of their own, but in the end the sternest test they faced at Headingley came from the local weather.

However ultimately not even a lunchtime blast of Leeds’ finest rain could completely stop the home side on their irrepressible march to victory – a 1-0 Investec series lead wrapped up just after the tea break.

On the day that the first ever Sri Lankan reached the summit of Mount Everest, the tourists had begun the morning with their own enormous mountain to climb, following on and still 206 runs behind, with three whole days of the Test remaining.

Just eight balls in and the ascent would have looked even steeper for Sri Lanka, Dimuth Karunaratne getting an absolute snorter from James Anderson and able to do nothing more than tickle it through to Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps.

It proved to be a winning combination for England, the fast bowler and wicketkeeper combining six times throughout the match to dismiss opposition batsmen, with Bairstow claiming nine catches in total – equalling the record at Headingley set by Mark Boucher in 2008.

Despite their perilous position, Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis – a 21-year-old playing only his fourth Test and, after a nine-ball first innings duck, a man staring down the barrel of a pair – decided to unfurl a few shots.

First Stuart Broad was fenced through third man for four and then an over later Anderson was lustily bunted over mid-on for another boundary, the pick of the shots though a textbook on drive off Steven Finn.

Mendis certainly rode his luck throughout the morning, put down first by Bairstow and then again by James Vince in the slips, just as the much-expected rain rolled into the ground, but his unbeaten 47 saw Sri Lanka through to 77/2 at lunch.

Adam Collins and Charlie Reynolds - Headingley day 2

The Yorkshire weather gods ensured it would be an extended break, but when play finally resumed nearly three hours later, England got things right back on track.

Moeen Ali might only have been given one over in the match, and even then only to allow his fast bowlers to switch ends, but he made the most of it, picking up the wicket of Dinesh Chandimal who cut the ball onto his own stumps.

From there things never improved for Sri Lanka, Mendis’ maiden Test fifty a tiny morsel of light relief for the visitors before the serious business of losing wickets resumed in earnest.

Before this match, Anderson had seemed to struggle at Headingley, only twice taking more than two wickets in an innings, but after his five-wicket haul in the first innings, the Lancashire man resumed his new-found love affair with Leeds, removing Mendis and debutant Dasun Chanaka while Broad picked up the key wicket of Angelo Mathews at the other end.

Adam Collins and Derek Pringle - Headingley day 3

While Sri Lanka were still just afloat as they navigated their way into the tea break at 116/7, four balls after play resumed they were well and truly holed below the water line, Finn removing Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Thirimanne in the same over to leave England just one wicket away from glory.

James Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of Koushal Silva on day three

Three balls later it was all over, Anderson brought back into the attack and shattering Nuwan Pradeep’s stumps to seal victory and his second five-wicket haul of the match – England cruising to a win by an innings and 88 runs.

After a difficult winter, this proved to be a thrilling return to form for Anderson, his 10 wickets in the match laying to rest the memories of agonising defeat on the same ground against Sri Lanka two years ago and sending England to Friday’s Test match in Durham with a 1-0 series lead.

Jonny Bairstow celebrates hitting a century against Sri Lanka

The only sour note for Alastair Cook’s side was an injury sustained by Ben Stokes, who limped off with just a couple of overs bowled today, and which looks likely to rule him out of the next match and possibly longer.

England nevertheless will go to Chester-Le-Street with a spring in their step, while Sri Lanka will just be hoping their next games proves to be less of an uphill struggle.

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