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Sri Lanka v England day 1: Randy’s Jerusalem & tourists dominate

As first days of the series go, that was about as good as it gets from an England perspective.

The tourists have taken control of the first Test against Sri Lanka after bowling their hosts out for 135, the lowest first-innings score ever in Galle, before a record-breaking partnership from Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow took them to 127-2 by stumps.

It may have been behind-closed-doors but our local correspondent Randy Caddick, who has waited 10 months to see England take on Sri Lanka, was there to belt out Jerusalem on behalf of the whole of the Barmy Army.

England had some decisions to make over selection, facing the unique challenges Sri Lanka provides with some regulars missing. They handed a debut to Essex batsman Dan Lawrence, brought Bairstow was back in at three, opted for two frontline spinners in Jack Leach and Dom Bess, and a three-prong pace attack in Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, and Mark Wood.

The hosts’ won the toss and opted to bat first but it was quickly clear which way things were going.

For Broady, it was a case of new year, same headband, and same result as he made early in-roads into the Sri Lankan batting line up.

The man that move past 500 Test wickets last year showed his quality once again, finishing with three top-order wickets as England dominated in the morning and after lunch.

Other than one or two loose bits of fielding, Root’s side did everything right but there’s no doubt they were helped by some loose shots from the opposition batsmen.

Jack Leach was arguably the pick of the bowlers in what was his first game in an England shirt since November 2019 and was unlucky to finish with figures of 1/55, plus a handy bit of work to run out Lasith Embuldeniya.

His spin partner Dom Bess was ruthlessly effective, however, taking 5/30 – the best figures of his Test career – as Sri Lanka were skittled out for 135, a record low first innings score at Galle.

The off-spinner may have got a little lucky by dismissing Niroshan Dickwella with a long hop but the delivery he produced to remove Dilruwan Perera was a thing of real beauty as he deceived the batsman with drift and bowled him through the gate.

England were reminded that batting on this Galle pitch can be tricky early in their innings as first Dom Sibley and then opening partner Zak Crawley were dismissed cheaply.

But the coming together of two Yorkshiremen saw the Three Lions steady the ship, with Bairstow and Root providing a clinic of how to bat in these conditions.

Sri Lanka has proven a happy hunting ground for Bairstow in the past and alongside his skipper he played himself in but kept the scoreboard ticking over at a good pace – taking England to within eight runs of their opponents’ first score by stumps and breaking the record for the tourists’ highest partnership in Galle.

As for Root, with his bat emblazoned with Barmy Army stickers, he was near-flawless and added his 50th Test half-century before finishing the day fittingly 66 not out.

England will be hoping to continue their strong start in 2021 and we’ve never felt happier to set a 4 am alarm.