Galle, January 18
Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence held their nerve in a 62-run unbroken stand to guide England to a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Monday on the fifth and final morning of the series-opening test.
England ensured it didn’t have any more hiccups in erasing the remaining 36 required on the last day after Sri Lanka had set up a tricky 74-run target on a turning wicket.
England had slumped to 14-3 late on the fourth evening, included a crucial run-out of its captain Joe Root for just 1, before Bairstow and Lawrence combined to usher the tourists to 76-3.
Bairstow remained unbeaten on 35 off 65 balls and Lawrence, who hit a gritty half century in the first innings of debut, finished 21 not out.
Sri Lanka had the chance of a breakthrough after England resumed on 38-3. Bairstow may have been out lbw off Dilruwarn Perera’s off-spin in the third over but stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal didn’t go for the television referral.
Bairstow eventually sealed the victory with a boundary when he swept Perera to square leg.
“To come with little prep and play in the manner we have, has been really impressive,” Root said after receiving his Man-of-the-Match award.
Root’s 228 in the first innings — his fourth test double century — provided England a hefty lead of 286 runs as the visitors posted 421 runs in the first innings.
“The thing that pleased me the most was my mindset,” Root said of his innings, adding: “ I felt I got into a good place, managed to get my feet apart, get forward and back well…people have been critical of my conversion, so nice to go up and make a big one.”
The England captain also praised the effort of his two spinners — Dom Bess and Jack Leach — who snared 14 wickets between them, each bagging a five-wicket haul.
“Brilliant effort, particularly with the little cricket they’ve played,” recently, Root said and added: “Series like these are always tough but without the prep it’s testament to their characters.”
In the absence of its injured captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who was ruled out with a hand injury sustained during the tour of South Africa, Sri Lanka was rattled for 135 in the first innings but rallied with a 359-run effort in the second innings.
Lahiru Thirimanne scored his first test century in almost eight years while Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera scored half centuries in the second innings which gave the home team a 73-run lead on a wicket where Bairstow felt it was difficult to bat on.
“I think it was a crucial toss to win but the first innings cost us the game,” Sri Lanka’s stand-in captain Chandimal said, adding: “Credit to Thirimanne, Angelo, Kusal … everyone did their bit as a batting unit in the second innings, and another 70-80 runs, it could have been a different story.”
The relatively small target didn’t diminish the challenge in the fourth-innings chase.
“Pretty tough (to bat), saw a lot more balls were raising off a length, some chunks coming out and it was tricky,” Bairstow said, adding: “Needed to be precise in your movements, bouncing more going forward so playing as much off the back foot in the second innings.”
The second test of the two-match series will also be played at Galle, starting Friday. England swept the series 3-0 when it last toured Sri Lanka in 2018. AP