The Sri Lankan Innings at Pallekelle

Andew Fidel Fernando, in ESPNcricinfo.com,

England 285 (Curran 64, Buttler 63, Dilruwan 4-61) and 0 for 0 (Leach 0*, Burns 0*) trail Sri Lanka 336 (Silva 85, Karunaratne 63, de Silva 59) by 46 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A graceful Dhananjaya de Silva 59, and a watchful 63 from Dimuth Karunaratnegave the Sri Lanka innings some early substance, but both those turns were outshone by what was arguably the innings of the series so far – a resolute 85 from Roshen Silva that carried Sri Lanka 46 runs into the lead.

Almost as impressive as his score, and the 174 balls he batted, was the fact that he forged such fruitful partnerships with the tail, coaching them through the tough periods. The last three partnership in Sri Lanka’s innings were worth 125 – Roshen scoring 60 of those runs. Soon after Roshen had arrived, Sri Lanka had been six-down and still 120 runs behind. Given the extremely challenging nature of this surface, and the variety in England’s attack, it was a monumental recovery.

Of England’s bowlers, Jack Leach was the most relentless, delivering beautiful lines, and immaculate lengths through the course of 29 overs in the innings, taking 3 for 70. Sri Lanka’s right-handers found him particularly difficult and were wary of taking risks. Adil Rashid, meanwhile, bowled the highest number of unplayables, finding dip, drift and rip-snorting turn, to take the big wickets of de Silva and Angelo Mathews shortly after lunch. He finished with 3 for 76 from 22 overs, eventually taking the wicket of Roshen, who miscued a lofted drive to mid-on. Moeen Ali had a less successful day – he took 2 for 85 and bowled too many loose balls.

Roshen began his innings when wickets were falling quickly – Sri Lanka lost 4 for 38 either side of lunch – and he had difficult moments himself early in his knock. There were edges that just bounced short, thanks in part to his playing the ball with soft hands, and lbw shouts that were turned down. During that period, Rashid even brought point into the circle, so powerful did his grip over Roshen seem. But the batsman battled. He dug in. He made sure to cover the stumps. He made peace with the fact that he was going to have his outside edge repeatedly and resoundingly beaten. Like Karunaratne in the first session, Roshen had come prepared for a dogfight.

Eventually things got easier. The singles began to come. He was finally able to squeeze Rashid away through point for four. Unlike many of the batsmen that have prospered so far on this surface, though, Roshen did not really use the sweep. Occasionally he tried reverse-sweeping, and coming down the track, but it was not until he had passed fifty that he attempted either of those ploys regularly. The back-and-across flick to leg, the late cut, the measured off drive – these provided the substance to his innings.

His most aggressive stroke – and there were very few of those right through his innings – came in the 92nd over, when he flitted down the pitch to thump Moeen into the sight screen for six. Otherwise, this was old-fashioned bad-pitch batting. He didn’t change his approach even in the company of No. 10 Akila Dananjaya, with whom he went on to post his best partnership of 56. The tail supported him superbly, Dananjaya making 31, while Suranga Lakmal and Dilruwan Perera made 15 vital runs apiece.

Earlier in the day, the 96-run stand between Karunaratne and de Silva had imbued some calm into the Sri Lanka batting effort, after nightwatchman Malinda Pushpakumara was out trying to heave Moeen to leg in the third over of the day. Where Karunaratne was tetchy early in his innings, particularly against Moeen, de Silva was serene – or as serene as any batsman could be on such a surface. His liquid drives, and glides to third man were a joy, as always, and unlike Karunaratne, he was sure to be severe on the bad balls that England sent his way. There were two graceful fours down the ground when Moeen had overpitched, and late in the session, he smoked two misdirected Ben Stokes bouncers through midwicket, and then mid on.

Karunaratne battled his way to a half-century though, eschewing the sweep as Silva would later do, but playing the reverse sweep on occasion, especially to the bowling of Leach. The pair seemed to be set for a truly massive stand when two pieces of Stokes brilliance sparked the middle-order mini-collapse. Karunaratne was run out attempting to complete a quick single that de Silva had called him through for, with Stokes swooping on the ball at point, swivelling and letting fly a direct hit with one stump to aim at.

A few overs later, Stokes also completed an outstanding reflex catch to dismiss Kusal Mendis off Leach, lunging low to his left to intercept the chance flawlessly. England played as a team smelling blood – and a big first-inning lead – through that period. Then Roshen produced his gem.

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Filed under Andrew Fidel Fernando, English cricket, performance, Sri Lanka Cricket

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