Sri Lanka v England: Tourists win first Test by seven wickets

Jonny Bairstow, playing his first Test since December 2019, scored 47 and 35 not out in the match
First Test, Galle (day five)
Sri Lanka 135 (Bess 5-30) & 359 (Thirimanne 111, Leach 5-122)
England 421 (Root 228; D Perera 4-109) & 76-3 (Bairstow 35*, Embuldeniya 2-29)
England won by seven wickets; take 1-0 series lead

England wrapped up a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the first Test of a two-match series in Galle.

Resuming on 38-3, needing another 36 for victory, Jonny Bairstow and debutant Dan Lawrence carried England to their target inside 35 minutes on the final morning of an enthralling encounter.

Bairstow ended unbeaten on 35 and Lawrence 21, although the latter survived an lbw review against Dilruwan Perera and Sri Lanka did not refer another shout that replays suggested would have been overturned.

After England slipped to 14-3 during a frantic end to day four, Bairstow and Lawrence’s unbroken 62-run stand guided England to an ultimately comfortable win.

The second Test starts at 04:30 GMT on Friday at the same ground.

Victory also improved England’s chances of reaching the inaugural World Test Championshipexternal-link final at Lord’s in June. They remain fourth in the standings, behind Australia, India and New Zealand, with the two top sides playing in the final.

World Test Championship standings showing Australia top, India second, New Zealand, England fourth and South Africa
The current World Test Championship top five, although the standings will change again depending on the result of the fourth Australia-India Test in Brisbane. The victory improved England’s percentage score by 4.4 points.

England have been slow starters in series in recent years – they lost the opening Test against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in 2019, and against West Indies last summer.

However, Sunday’s top-order wobble aside, they were rarely troubled in the first of six successive Tests on the subcontinent.

Captain Joe Root made a magnificent 226 in the first innings, and off-spinner Dom Bess and slow left-armer Jack Leach, who returned match figures of 8-130 and 6-177 respectively, found more rhythm as the game progressed and bodes well for the sterner four-Test series in India that follows this tour.

Lawrence can take great credit for his first-innings 73 and the manner in which he helped negate England’s second-innings nerves, while wicketkeeper Jos Buttler was tidy behind the stumps on a dry, turning pitch.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, were left wondering what if. Their collapse to 135 all out on the first day was described as “one of the worse we’ve ever seen”, and even an extra 50 runs could have changed the course of this game.

More to follow.

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