PALLEKELE: Sam Curran exhibited his six-hitting prowess and Jos Buttler made an enterprising 63 to help England overcome a top order collapse and post 285 in the first innings on the opening day of the second Test against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
England were reeling at 89-4 when Buttler somewhat steadied the innings before Curran clobbered six sixes in his blistering 64 to help them to a competitive score at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.
Sri Lanka lost Kaushal Silva in their wobbly reply to be 26-1 at stumps, trailing by 259 runs.
Dimuth Karunaratne was batting on 19 with Malinda Pushpakumara on one at the other end.
Earlier, England captain Joe Root won the toss and unsurprisingly elected to bat as the tourists, 1-0 up in the three-match series, sought to build on their victory in Galle last week.
Stand-in skipper Suranga Lakmal dismissed Keaton Jennings in the fifth over before the home side’s spinners set about disrupting the rest of the top order.
England named an unchanged side but shuffled their batting lineup and Ben Stokes (19) was unable to justify his promotion to number three, the all-rounder surviving a review before succumbing to a second to be trapped lbw by Dilruwan Perera (4-61).
Root’s struggle against left-arm spin, meanwhile, compounded England’s crisis after the captain, dismissed twice by Rangana Herath in his farewell Test in Galle, fell for 14 to Pushpakumara (3-89).
Opener Rory Burns made 43 before being caught in the slips as England lost four wickets before the lunch break.
Buttler then counter-attacked, hitting Akila Dananjaya, who has been reported for a suspect bowling action but is free to play, for three successive boundaries en route to a run-a-ball 50.
Buttler moved quickly to 63 before a fluffed reverse sweep against Pushpakumara led to his dismissal.
Ben Foakes was unable to match his Galle heroics and was caught behind for 19, bizarrely failing to review the decision as replays showed he had not touched the ball with bat or glove.
Curran then lit up the final session with his binge-hitting, bringing up his third Test fifty with his fifth six.
The left-hander dominated his 60-run partnership for the final wicket — the only 50-plus stand in the England innings — with James Anderson before being the last man out.
Sri Lanka made two changes with Herath retiring and regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal ruled out with a groin injury.
Pushpakumara and batsmen Roshen Silva were brought in as the hosts battle to stay alive in the three-Test series.
ENGLAND (1st Innings):
R.J. Burns c de Silva b Dananjaya 43
K.K. Jennings c Dickwella b Lakmal 1
B.A. Stokes lbw b Perera 19
J.E. Root b P’kumara 14
J.C. Buttler c Karunaratne b P’kumara 63
Moeen Ali lbw b P’kumara 10
B.A. Foakes c de Silva b Perera 19
S.M. Curran c Karunaratne b Perera 64
A.U. Rashid lbw b Perera 31
M.J. Leach b Dananjaya 7
J.M. Anderson not out 7
EXTRAS (B-4, LB-3) 7
TOTAL (all out, 75.4 overs) 285
FALL OF WKTS: 1-7, 2-44, 3-65, 4-89, 5-134, 6-165, 7-171, 8-216, 9-225.
BOWLING: Lakmal 12-1-44-1; Perera 24.4-5-61-4; Pushpakumara 23-4-89-3; de Silva 2-0-4-0; Dananjaya 14-1-80-2.
SRI LANKA (1st Innings):
F.D.M. Karunaratne not out 19
J.K. Silva b Leach 6
P.M. Pushpakumara not out 1
TOTAL (for one wkt, 12 overs) 26
FALL OF WKT: 1-22.
TO BAT: D.M. de Silva, B.K.G. Mendis, A.D. Mathews, A.R. Silva, N. Dickwella, M.K.D. Perera, A. Dananjaya, R.A.S. Lakmal.
BOWLING (to-date): Anderson 3-0-8-0; Curran 2-0-5-0; Leach 4-0-7-1; Moeen Ali 3-1-6-0.
UMPIRES: M. Erasmus (South Africa) and S. Ravi (India).
TV UMPIRE: C.B. Gaffaney (New Zealand).
MATCH REFEREE: A.J. Pycroft (Zimbabwe).
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018