Under-pressure captain Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook hit gutsy half-centuries as England made a confident reply to Sri Lanka’s 275 in the second Test in Colombo.
The left-handed openers compiled a 122-run partnership as England countered Sri Lanka’s pace and spin attack to reach 154 for one by stumps on the second day. Strauss, under fire for his batting and leadership skills, roared back to form with a well-made 61 before he attempted to cut off-spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan and edged a catch to the wicket-keeper in the final session.
It was his best score on England’s forgettable Asian sojourn so far this year, in which they were routed 3-0 by Pakistan in the UAE before losing at Galle in the first Test.
Cook returned unbeaten on 77 but was fortunate to be still there after Lahiru Thirimanne floored a sharp chance at forward short-leg off Rangana Herath when the batsman was on 20. Jonathan Trott was the other batsman at the crease, on 15, as the tourists trailed by just 121 runs in the first-innings with nine wickets in hand.
England’s batting finally prospered in a match they must win to level the series and retain their number one ranking. Even a draw will see Strauss’ men slip behind South Africa.
‘We’re in a good position’
Off-spinner Graeme Swann, who claimed four wickets in Sri Lanka’s innings, was delighted at his team’s batting response.
“It was important to start well and the score speaks for itself,” said Swann. “We are in a good position, but we’re not completely there. We need to push past their score. We’ve got to look for 400.”
Swann also backed Strauss, saying the long-awaited century from the skipper was not far away.
“He proved himself. He got another good start and he will be kicking himself he got a half-century and did not go on. The hundreds will come. Every time he bats he gets a start. He’s probably in one of those patches when you don’t quite perform as you want to.”
Earlier, Sri Lanka added 37 runs to their overnight score of 238 for six before they were all out 30 minutes before lunch. Swann claimed three of the four wickets to fall in the morning.
Angelo Mathews, who scored 57, said Sri Lanka needed to take early wickets to prevent England from running away with the game.
“This won’t be an easy pitch to bat on so it’s important that we restrict England,” said Mathews. “We must not allow the batsmen to settle.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.