Alastair Cook was closing in on his sixth hundred in nine Tests but England were far from having things all their own way on the opening day of the second Test against Sri Lanka.
England were 4-165 at tea at Lord’s on Friday, with opener Cook 75 not out and fellow left-hander Eoin Morgan 23 not out.
Sri Lanka, 1-0 down in this three-match series after an innings and 14-run loss in the first Test in Cardiff concluded Monday, where Cook made 133, enjoyed a sensational start at the ‘home of cricket’ after winning the toss.
They reduced England to 3-22, with captain Andrew Strauss (four) and Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen (both two) all out in single figures.
Cook and Ian Bell, who also made a hundred in Cardiff, staunched the flow of wickets with a fourth-wicket partnership of 108 before the Warwickshire right-hander fell for 52.
Morgan, one of three men in England’s line-up playing on their Middlesex home ground, added typical impetus by lofting left-arm spinner Rangana Herath for the first six of the match.
Cook, whose 766 runs at 127.66 with three hundreds made him the rock of England’s batting during their 3-1 Ashes series win in Australia, carried on in typically unfussy style.
But when paceman Dilhara Fernando, recalled after missing the series opener with a knee problem, dropped short the Essex batsman pounced to pull him hard to the boundary.
At tea, Cook had batted for four hours, facing 135 balls including 13 fours.
Sri Lanka’s attack had looked largely unthreatening in Cardiff.
But left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara, recalled with Fernando in place of the dropped duo of spinner Ajantha Mendis and seamer Thisara Perera, had opener Strauss lbw, hitting across the line, and England were 1-5.
Trott came into this match on the back of 203 in Cardiff but that didn’t matter when, aiming legside, he was lbw to seamer Suranga Lakmal.
That brought in Pietersen, who in falling for three to Herath in Cardiff had been dismissed by a left-arm spinner for the 19th time in Tests.
However, Pietersen was out even more cheaply on Friday after loosely steering a Lakmal delivery to gully, where Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan held an athletic diving catch.
England were now 3-22 inside eight overs.
Bell then got off the mark first ball by pulling a short Lakmal delivery for four and he later cover drove him for a boundary.
However, Bell also edged short of the close catchers before, fending outside off stump, he guided Welegedara’s fifth ball back to first slip Tharanga Paranavitana to leave England 4-130.