The first Test match between England and Sri Lanka finally took place with England emerging as the winner. Despite shining in patches, Sri Lanka were no match for the mighty England as the visitors won the first Test by 7 wickets. In the end, it was straightforward enough. Resuming on the final morning with 36 more runs required to win, it took England just 9.2 overs to wrap up victory. Jonny Bairstow settled any nerves that may have been lingering by rocking on to the back foot and cutting Lasith Embuldeniya for four in the second over of the morning, while Dan Lawrence picked off singles with an ease that seemed impossible the previous evening. Together they posted an unbeaten stand of 62 for the fourth wicket with Lawrence providing admirably assured support on debut. There were a couple of anxious moments. Replays suggested that, had Sri Lanka called for a review when Lawrence, on 9, was hit on the pad by Dilruwan Perera, he would have been given out.
For England this will be an especially satisfying victory. Going into this match, they had only one day of intra-squad warm-up cricket and had a poor long-term record at the start of series having lost the first Test in five of their previous six series. To see their captain, Joe Root, rediscover his best form with a double-century and their spinners, Dom Bess and Jack Leach, both claim a five-wicket haul would have been enormously pleasing. It is believed to be the first time two England spinners have taken five-wicket hauls in the same Test since John Emburey and Derek Underwood achieved it, also in Sri Lanka, in 1982. It is England’s fourth successive overseas Test victory, following the three that ended their tour of South Africa at the start of 2020. It is the first time England have achieved such a run in away Tests since 1955-57, when they beat New Zealand and South Africa twice each. It is also England’s fifth successive Test victory in Sri Lanka and their second successive victory in Galle. Prior to the 2018 tour, they had never won at the ground. It was Root’s 24th victory as Test captain. Now only Michael Vaughan, with 26 wins, has more as an England captain. It was Root’s first overseas Test victory achieved without Ben Stokes in his side. The second and final Test, also in Galle, begins on Friday. Earlier on day 4, Sri Lanka rattled England with three quick wickets late on the fourth day of the first Test in Galle on Sunday, but the visitors remained favourites to win the match with just 36 more runs needed and seven wickets in hand.
England were expected to comfortably close in on a victory after Jack Leach took 5-122 with Sri Lanka all out for 359 in their second innings, leaving the visitors needing only 74 to win. But Sri Lanka struck early, with Dom Sibley (2) and Zak Crawley (8) falling to left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya. Captain Joe Root was run-out for one after a mix-up with Jonny Bairstow. This wasn’t enough as England chased the remaining runs on day 5. Sri Lanka will have to do a lot of thinking if they are to win the next and final match.