Angelo Mathews looks to the heavens as he celebrates scoring his 11th Test hundred and his first at Galle
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Angelo Mathews scored his 11th Test hundred and his first at the Galle International Cricket Stadium as Sri Lanka gave one of their better batting performances on the first day of a Test match, closing on a solid 229 for four wickets after winning the toss and batting first on an easy paced pitch against England in the second Moose Cup Daraz Test match yesterday.
Mathews displaying great resilience against an accurate England bowling attack that gave nothing away held the innings together in a wonderful display of concentration and application to remain unbeaten on 107 scored off 228 balls of which 11 came off boundaries. Batting with Mathews was Niroshan Dickwella on 19 and on this pair rests Sri Lanka’s hopes of getting to a big total to put the pressure back on England as they are the last of the recognised batters. Sri Lanka needs to bat as long as possible to allow the pitch to wear out by the time England comes out to bat. It is something they failed to do in the first Test getting bowled out for 135 in two sessions of the first day and allowing England to amass 421.
Sri Lanka looked like they would yet again squander away another good opportunity of batting first when Kusal Perera drove wildly at a delivery from Jimmy Anderson and flying outside edge was held by Joe Root at first slip for six. Although he has been given the licence to play freely Perera it seems has not come to respect the opposition presenting them with his wicket for the third time in as many innings in the series.
Anderson having replaced Stuart Broad for this Test struck twice in his second over by sending back Oshada Fernando – making his return to Test cricket after an ankle injury without scoring when he played on to a delivery which he could have easily left alone. England and Anderson were the beneficiaries of Perera’s and Fernando’s wickets that were gifted due to the poor techniques of the batsmen.
Lahiru Thirimanne who scored a hundred in the first Test and Mathews carried Sri Lanka to lunch at 76-2 without any further mishap. But off the second ball after the break Anderson who bowled economically as Broad had done in the first Test once again gave England the breakthrough when he forced Thirimanne into a false stroke to edge a catch behind the wicket and be dismissed without adding to his lunch score of 43.
Mathews and acting captain Dinesh Chandimal set about resurrecting the innings with a stand of 117 but it was not easy going as the England bowlers did the basics right by bowling a fine line on a flat track that offered them absolutely nothing bowling with great discipline and not allowing Sri Lanka to run away with easy runs.
Anderson bowled so tightly that the first boundary was not scored off him until his 10th over when Mathews hit him off his legs for four. England’s highest Test wicket-taker was only replicating what his long-standing new ball partner Stuart Broad had done in the first Test bowling miserly spells so that the Lankan batsmen were made to work hard for every run. But unlike the first Test this pitch did not offer much assistance to the spinners as on day one and Sri Lanka was able to survive losing only four wickets.
Mark Wood, the quickest of England’s bowlers tested both Mathews and Chandimal with some fiery express short-pitched deliveries hitting speeds of 90 mph in energy-sapping conditions. Sri Lanka’s two senior statesmen played with a lot of confidence and looked to carry their side towards a big total when Wood made a huge breakthrough for England.
Chandimal, who took blows on the helmet and body from Wood, eventually fell for 52 when he was caught in his crease by a fast delivery and was trapped in front to give the bowler his first wicket of the series.
Mathews moved to his half-century off 89 balls, not convincingly gloving a pull off Wood for four and eventually to his first century at this venue off 207 balls with a single to surpass his previous best effort of 95 against Australia in 2011.
It was Mathews’ first hundred on home soil since 2015. He has applied himself well and dug deep and continued from where he left off from the second innings of the first Test when he scored 71. His blemish-free innings held the Lankan innings together in partnerships of 69 and 117 with Thirimanne and Chandimal.
Sri Lanka gave a Test cap to spinning all-rounder Ramesh Mendis making him the 154th cricketer to represent the country. Overall they made three changes with Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando returning from injuries and left out Kusal Mendis, Wanindu Hasaranga and Dasun Shanaka from the first Test, which they lost by seven wickets.
Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal added 117 runs for the fourth wicket