LEEDS: England took command on the second afternoon of the first Test at Headingley after Jonny Bairstow played a brilliant counter-punching innings of 140 and later added three catches behind the stumps. With a total of 298 to defend, Stuart Broad and James Anderson produced another classy display of seam and swing bowling to leave the Sri Lankans rattled on 43 for 3 at tea.
It was a situation far removed from the 83-for-5 scoreline that had confronted Bairstow when he walked out to bat shortly after lunch on the first day. And with the new ball jagging alarmingly from a full length as Broad and Anderson brought all of their huge experience to bear, it took a gutsy response from Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka’s most experienced pairing, to reach the break without further damage.
Faced with grey skies and a packed cordon, Sri Lanka’s openers, Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva betrayed their anxieties in the very first over, when they hesitated so long over a quick single that they could have ended up shaking hands in the middle of the pitch.
Instead, they simply waved goodbye in the space of five deliveries as, first, Broad straightened one off the seam to kiss the edge of the left-handed Karunaratne, who departed for a 12-ball duck, before Anderson drew level with Kapil Dev on 434 career wickets by finding some extra lift to dispose of Silva for 11.
One over later, and Broad had two wickets in three balls as he went wide on the crease to spear an angled full-length ball into Kusal Mendis’ forward defence, for Bairstow to snaffle the slenderest of deflections behind the stumps.
Chandimal and Mathews, however, stood firm in a 31-run stand before the interval.
The story of the day, however, remained Bairstow’s happy homecoming – a second Test century and his first at his Yorkshire home. Continuing the theme that Bairstow and his fellow not-out batsman, Alex Hales, had established on the first afternoon, England’s sixth-wicket pair extended their stand to 141 to banish the memories of the top-order wobble, when five wickets had tumbled for 34 runs.
At the other end, Hales wound his neck in and banished all risk from his game as he set his sights on the remaining 29 runs he needed for his maiden Test century. But he faced with a change of tempo as Rangana Herath came into the attack, Hales’ patience snapped for good. In Herath’s second over, he skipped down the track and failed to reach the pitch of the ball with an ambitious wallop over the covers. A fast flat leading edge fizzed out to Dushmantha Chameera at deep extra cover, who pouched the offering with a well-judged dive.
If Hales’ failing had been to linger too long, then a different criticism could be levelled at Moeen Ali. England’s No. 8 had admitted before the match that he had lost a bit of confidence in being slated to come in so low for his country, but the hasty manner in which he came and went didn’t exactly enhance his case for a promotion. He had failed to score from his first seven deliveries when he drove too firmly at his eighth, from Chameera, and lobbed a simple catch off the inside edge and pad, to Mendis under the helmet at short leg.
It was a timely reward for the slippery Chameera, bowling only his second over of the day. He had erred on the short side in his fruitless first day’s work, but was soon celebrating two wickets in the space of five deliveries when Broad drove flat-footedly at a hint of width outside off and spread-eagled his own stumps via an inside edge.
Bairstow simply stared down the track, rather nonplussed by the clatter of wickets in his midst. But he didn’t have to wait long to reframe the story of the session. From the first ball of Chameera’s next over, Bairstow drilled a drive into the covers, paused as a wild shy came in at the non-striker’s end, then galloped through with glee as the ball zipped through for overthrows to gift him his second century and his first on home soil.