Foakes helps England turn the tables on Day 1



Foakes was unbeaten on 87 at stumps. © AFP

It was a day of two tales for England as they shot themselves in the foot in the first session before coming back strong in the next two to end the day at 321/8. The recovery was led by England’s debutant – Ben Foakes – who showcased great maturity, application and determination to overcome the Sri Lankan challenge and end Day 1 of the first Test at Galle with an unbeaten 87.

In a team that is filled with strokemakers, Foakes stood out with his ability to put his head down and chip away at the challenging phases. He was well supported by Jos Buttler (38) and Sam Curran (48), with the two successive 50+ stands helping England move from 103/5 to 252/7. Foakes then played second fiddle to an attacking Adil Rashid as a third consecutive 50+ stand helped England cross the 300-run mark late in the day.

The day was supposed to be about Rangana Herath, who walked out to a guard of honour on his final Test match, but Suranga Lakmal and Dilruwan Perera stole the show in the first session, before Foakes’s rearguard effort took away the limelight in the second half of the day.

England had won the toss and elected to bat, choosing two debutants in Foakes and Rory Burns and a one-Test veteran in Jack Leach, at Galle. They came out with a gung-ho approach, with the team intent on taking on Sri Lanka’s triple-threat spin battery.

But it was Lakmal who turned destroyer-in-chief at the start. He had Rory Burns caught down the leg side before uprooting Moeen Ali’s off-stump first ball by coming around the wicket. England continued with their aggressive approach, with Joe Root and Keaton Jennings employing the sweep and the slog regularly. The move came back to bite them when Root jumped down to Herath and ended up yorking himself.

Jennings’s attempted cut off a length delivery from Dilruwan saw him castled four short of a fifty, while Ben Stokes’s ill-advised paddle off the same bowler had him bowled for 7.

England’s top order had failed again, and it was left to their lower-order to bail them out. They had the right person in Foakes for the job. He and Jos Buttler played with far more caution in the second session, putting on a 61-run alliance that helped England edge towards safety. The change in plan was very apparent. The sweeps, the paddles and the big shots disappeared – instead a straight defence and turning the strike over took precedence. And just like that, the wicket started to look a lot more normal.

Frustrated at the lack of wickets, Sri Lanka started to err. Akila Dhananjaya sprayed the ball around, and the batting pair was able to take toll. Herath was afforded a lot more respect – with the batsmen playing him mostly with the spin unless the left-armer gave them the obvious chance to break that flow.

Foakes looked assured on debut, having survived a tricky start. The right-hander used his feet and the crease well, and looked comfortable defending or while having to look for gaps. Buttler, too, was largely untroubled, although he was more adventurous than his partner. Sri Lanka finally got their breakthrough when a Dilruwan Perera delivery kept low and forced Buttler to edge behind while on 38. It gave the home team the opening they were looking for, but Foakes, along with Sam Curran, helped stave off further damage.

The pair added 88-runs as England moved past 250 and breathed a lot more comfortably. Adil Rashid added to the tally with an enterprising knock of 35 from 38 balls, including two sixes, helping England past 300. Foakes was on 87 when stumps were drawn.

Brief Scores: England 321/8 (Ben Foakes 87*, Sam Curran 48, Dilruwan Perera 4-70) vs Sri Lanka.

© Cricbuzz


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