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Eng v SL 1st Test, Day 1 Review: Dasun Shanaka shines on rainy day

Dasun Shanaka
Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of England’s captain Alastair Cook (not pictured) during play on the first morning of the first cricket Test match between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds, northern England on May 19, 2016.
(Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan debutante Dasun Shanaka claimed the spotlight courtesy of a three-wicket haul. He seemed to have the ball on a string as he was seemingly unplayable in bowler-friendly conditions at Headingley. Despite Shanaka’s strikes, Alex Hales and wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow steadied the ship, ensuring that the Brits remained in the match with a fighting chance of survival.

Angelo Mathews, the Lankan skipper called the toss correctly and invited his counterpart Alastair Cook and his men to have a bat first. Playing on a bowler friendly wicket as well as overcast conditions in Headingley, Cook and his opening partner Alex Hales got the Brits off to a steady start. Despite the absence of Dhammika Prasad from the playing XI, his replacements Shaminda Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep succeeded in keeping the English batsmen quiet.

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For Alastair Cook however, it was more than just a solid start. As the 10,000 run mark beckoned for the English skipper, he looked a tad shaky and uneasy at the middle. Eager to get the monkey off his back, Cook decided to switch to a higher gear. This decision however, was his undoing as he gifted his wicket to the wily Dasun Shanaka.

The 24-year old Shanaka, with only his seventh delivery in Test match cricket, outplayed Cook. Angling the ball away from his body, the need to drive suddenly flashed through the mind of the England skipper. However, the pace of the delivery and the away swing saw an outside edge carry safely to the gloves of Dinesh Chandimal as the 10,000 run mark was to wait awhile.

The young Shanaka however, was far from done with his impressive bowling performance because three deliveries later, Nick Compton too found his way back to the dressing room. Shanaka was bowling with the simplest of bowling plans. It wasn’t rocket since neither was it terrifying pace they were facing. However, on the day, for some strange reason, Dasun Shanaka was simply unplayable. An edge from the bat of Compton found its way to Lahiru Thirimanne stationed at second slip.

The 24-year old completed his treble when he picked up the dangerous Joe Root in his next over. Root, tipped to be one of England’s and perhaps even the world’s best player of pace bowling had just been dismissed by a medium pacer on debut. Three wickets in a flash saw the Brits reeling. Trevor Bayliss and the rest of the support staff breathed a sigh of relief with the score at 57-3. Lunch could not come at a better time for the English as the two sides headed back to the serenity of the dressing room.

After lunch, it was the fresh face of James Vince. However, the same problems prevailed. This time, it was not Shanaka who created the problems. Spurned on by the purchase he was getting from the surface, Shaminda Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep took the cue. The fresh-faced James Vince was the next to go. It was yet another slip catch for yet another poor shot from yet another England batsman. Desperate and discombobulated, Ben Stokes came out to bat.

The southpaw took a different approach to batting against the Lankans. He began to smash the ball with the intent he shown a few months back en route to the fastest double century in Test cricket. Perhaps it was in anger towards Carlos Brathwaite. However, Stokes also fell, this time to Nuwan Pradeep when he attempted a loft over mid-on. Skipper Angelo Mathews completed the catch as the home team was cut down to exactly half their size.

It was time to rebuild and pick up the pieces. This unfortunate and herculean task fell on two of England’s perhaps most able stars. Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow have seldom batted together. However, they had to pull off a ‘Houdini’ act if their side was to have any sort of good fortune in the match. Slowly but surely, these two players succeeded in providing England with the steady hand they deserved.

While Alex Hales continued on his merry way, Jonny Bairstow provided the near-perfect balance between attack and defence. Although Bairstow almost lost his wicket to a leg-before shout while on 40, the duo continued undeterred. They had brought up their half-centuries by the time the English summer rain made it’s divine intervention, stopping the play prematurely, 37 overs lesser than it was to be bowled. In a nutshell, the Lankans have a centimeter of their noses in front and will have to work hard the following morning to salvage anything from the first day of play.

Brief Scores: Day 1 Stumps

England – 171/5 in 53 overs (A Hales 71*; D Shanaka 3/30)

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