England managed to claw themselves back into the first Test after Sri Lanka had dominated the first session on Day One at Lord’s.
Even before a ball had been bowled, head coach Peter Moores’ team selection had raised eyebrows at the home of cricket, with Middlesex debutant Sam Robson opening alongside captain Alistair Cook, and England ‘Player of the Year’ Ian Bell not coming in until number four.
The Three Lions then started their new era with a whimper, seemingly crumbling at the first signs of Sri Lankan pressure; Marvan Atapattu’s side appeared to smell blood having looked at England’s top order, and employed three slips and a gully early on.
Sri Lanka had perhaps been optimistic when opting to bowl after winning the toss, but their doubts about England’s dubious opening partnership were proved correct as Robson was dismissed for just 1 on his home ground. Despite having played for Australia’s under-19s before declaring for England, he looked out of sorts at international level and will certainly be looking to the second innings for a second chance to impress Moores.
Nuwan Pradeep went on to take the wicket of Yorkshire’s Gary Balance, having already sent Robson on his way to the pavilion, but man of the moment Bell got England’s recovery underway with 56 once he eventually settled, before finally falling lbw off the bowling of Shaminda Eranga.
However, Joe Root earned the most plaudits on the day with 102 not out, establishing partnerships with Moeen Ali and then Matt Prior. Root once again proved he is far better suited to the middle order, coming in at five.
Of all England’s beleaguered batsman, Matt Prior perhaps had the most to prove due to Jos Buttler’s outstanding performances in the ODI series, in which Sri Lanka triumphed 3-2.
Prior had to contend with widespread calls for Buttler’s call-up in the build-up to the match, but having been backed by Cook and Moores – who both favoured experience over form – the Sussex wicket keeper repaid the faith shown in him with a cool 76. Ali had also impressed, hitting just two shy of a half century, but the real test of the Worcestershire man will be with the ball, as he looks to seal a place as England’s regular spinner.
Regardless of their shaky start, England now look well poised to continue batting on Day Two, finishing on 344-5. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will view the day as an opportunity wasted, having let the advantage slide out of their grasp.
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