Lasith Embuldeniya (right) who took a career best 7 for 132 sets the field with his captain Dinesh Chandimal on day three of the second Test at Galle
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Joe Root the England captain came up with another master class batting performance with a big century and Sri Lanka’s left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya produced a career best seven-wicket haul in an enthralling third day of the second Moose Cup Daraz second cricket Test as both teams fought tooth and nail to get the better of each other at the Galle International Cricket Stadium yesterday.
By the end of the day Sri Lanka were slightly in front having captured nine England wickets for 339 runs. England still trail Sri Lanka by 42 runs with their last pair at the wicket. A first innings lead is of vital importance in this contest as the Galle pitch has started to turn and bounce quite alarmingly, causing enough discomfort to the batsmen, and England having to bat last will not fancy chasing a big target in the fourth innings.
If not for Root’s majestic innings of 186 off 309 balls (18 fours), England would have been totally out of the contest. The England captain kept his team in the game as Embuldeniya kept on chipping away wickets at the other end to finish the day with figures of 7 for 132 off 41 overs – his third five-fer in nine Tests in what is turning out to be a long and promising career ahead of him.
The 24-year-old Embuldeniya was assisted greatly on the field by Lahiru Thirimanne who latched onto five sharp catches at slips off his bowling to become the first Sri Lankan to do so in an innings and the 13th fielder in a long list that starts with Australians Victor Richardson and Steve Smith, Indians Yajurvindra Singh, Mohammed Azharuddin, Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Ajinkya Rahane, New Zealand’s Stephen Fleming, South Africa’s Graeme Smith, West Indians Darren Sammy, Darren Bravo and Jermaine Blackwood, and England’s Ben Stokes, the last cricketer to do so in January 2020 against South Africa at Cape Town.
Like in the first Test Root was the mainstay of the England batting and if you take away his double hundred (228) England would have had only 193 from the rest. Yesterday again he scored 186 while the rest of the batsmen contributed 153.
The Lankans having closely studied Root came up with a clear plan to block him scoring easy runs off the sweep and reverse sweep shots, but still he found ways and means to keep the scoreboard moving in valuable partnerships of 111 with Jonny Bairstow (28), 97 with Jos Buttler (55) and 81 with Dom Bess (32) to inch England closer to the Sri Lankan first innings total of 381.
Just as it looked that Root might see the day through and live to fight another day he fell in the most extraordinary way through a run out which seemed the only way Sri Lanka could get him out. Oshada Fernando fielding at short leg reacted sharply to hit the stumps with a direct hit as Root came out of his crease and pushed forward at a delivery from Dilruwan Perera and was found to be short of his crease.
It was the second time in successive innings that he had been dismissed in this manner – being run out for one in the second innings of the first Test.
It was a sad end to a classic innings played under duress, battling cramps and in energy sapping conditions on a tricky pitch that did not allow the batsmen any freedom of stroke play. The secret of Root’s batting was that he was either fully forward or fully backward to the spinners and not caught in between. He seldom hit the ball in the air when he employed the sweep or reverse sweep shots which are a lesson for the Lankan batsmen.
Root looked a different class to the rest of his team mates as if he was batting on a different plateau. He made the bowlers do what he wanted them to and his fabulous century which came off 139 balls was his 19th in 99 Tests, third in Sri Lanka and the eighth as captain. He brought up his ninth score of 150 plus off 257 balls with a sweep shot which he has been quite prolific with. He has in fact proved to be the difference between the two sides and the stand out player for England in the series.
England began the day at 98-2 but were soon four down for 132 when Sri Lanka broke through in the sixth over of the morning when the persisting Embuldeniya had Bairstow caught of bat and pad by Oshada Fernando adding only four to his overnight score of 24, and Dan Lawrence edging a catch to Thirimanne for three after surviving a stumping chance to Niroshan Dickwella at one.
Sri Lanka had two more wickets in the afternoon sessions when they removed Buttler and Sam Curran. Buttler became debutant Ramesh Mendis’ maiden Test wicket when his reverse sweep was caught off his boot by Fernando at short leg and Curran fell to the Thirimanne-Embuldeniya combination for 13.
Sri Lanka ended a hard fought day on a high by grabbing the wickets of Bess and Mark Wood – both falling to Embuldeniya and the prized one of Root in the final session of play.
England captain Joe Root celebrates scoring his 19th Test hundred
Sri Lanka’s debutant spinner Ramesh Mendis is congratulated by team mates after capturing his first wicket in Test cricket when he dismissed Jos Buttler