Cook falls four short of another hundred but England just on top
Close: Second Test, day one, Lord’s
Match score: England 342-6 (Prior 73*, Broad 17*)
Session score: England 177-2 England win
England rattled along at almost five an over during a final session in which Sri Lanka lost much of the initiative they had established early in the day.
This is Sri Lanka’s 200th Test in the 30 years since their invitation to the game’s top table and you can probably count on the fingers of Murali’s bowling hand the number of times they have selected a lone specialist spinner.
Overseas they did it occasionally – indeed in their first Test at Lord’s in 1984 – and the temptation would have been stronger when Murali was in his pomp.
But these are strange times for Sri Lanka and their slightly ambivalent approach to the first day at Lord’s indicated they are still very much coming to terms with their new reality.
Having put England in and reduced them to 22 for 3, Sri Lanka lapsed quickly into negativity after lunch and then after tea the game seemed to be in stalemate as Alastair Cook moved towards yet another century.
“We thought the grass that was on the wicket two days ago might have been taken off but when we saw that it hadn’t we had no hesitation in bowling first,” said Marvan Atapattu, Sri Lanka’s batting coach. Andrew Strauss also said that he would have considered an insertion.
Atapattu rubbished suggestions that Dilshan’s decision was based on fear of England’s lofty pace-bowling trio though he would say that wouldn’t he?
They displayed a conservatism and a lack of belief which, while understandable, will not help them winning many Test matches. Their view seems to be simply to stay in the game, hope their batsmen can deliver and then take it from there.
Cook’s dismissal, top-edging a pull to mid-on, was indicative of an England batting effort that lacked total rigour. The bowling was decent and had more variety than at Cardiff but five of the six dismissed batsmen contributed to their own downfall.
Eoin Morgan, who brings a tremendous buzz to the crease, is absolved from blame in that respect. Without the loss of his wicket from the seventh delivery with the second new ball, England would be well on top. As it is, both sides will take some succour from a day where neither stayed in charge for long.
Shot of the day: Stuart Broad’s off-drive for four on the up off Lakmal towards the end of the day though two balls later Matt Prior gazumped him by lashing Lakmal through extra cover.
Innings of the day: Prior’s beautifully fluent 73 not out, helped admittedly by Sri Lanka’s bowlers feeding his love of the cut shot and the cover drive, lit up the evening session.
Ball of the day: Lakmal’s inswinger that did for Eoin Morgan. Ian Botham was certain it was a wasted referral but Beefy was wrong. Not that it he admitted it, of course.
Fielder of the day: Dilhara Fernando, back in the side after a knee injury, somehow stopped a Morgan drive at extra cover like a man losing his balance in a dinghy. It was inelegant, he looked very stiff but in the end it was an excellent one-handed stop that saved a boundary.
Stat of the day: Strauss has been dismissed 20 times in 149 Test innings by left-arm seamers. His nemesis of that type is India’s Zaheer Khan (five times) who he will face later in the summer.
Quote of the day: Morgan was asked what a par score would be: “Nine hundred and fifty. We haven’t talked about it.” Atapattu was a bit more forthcoming. He said that Sri Lanka had hoped to bowl England out for 300. They have now recalibrated their target to 400.
Commentary banter of the day: After a Sri Lankan fielder had retrieved a Tesco’s bag that had intruded on the field … Michael Holding: “Plastic bags are bad news wherever they are, on a cricket field or in the supermarket.” Mike Atherton: “Are you a bit of an eco-warrior, Mikey?” Holding: “Definitely.”
Celeb spot of the day: Former Prime Minister Sir John Major was in the MCC box but the champagne bar in the Harris Garden at the back of the pavilion was the place to see former cricketers in various states of sobriety. Allan Lamb was well-ensconced, Gladstone Small mingled, Andrew Flintoff was having a fag and his picture taken patiently with a sequence of half-cut City-types while the former Crystal Palace football manager Alan Smith sported an MCC tie.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John