England in Sri Lanka: James Anderson takes 6-40 on tight second day in Galle

James Anderson and Joe Root kept England in contention on day two of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.

Anderson took 6-40 from 29 overs – his 30th Test five-wicket haul – as England bowled their hosts out for 381.

He dismissed Angelo Mathews for 110 but Sri Lanka eked out a good score from 243-6, Niroshan Dickwella making 92 and Dilruwan Perera 67.

England fell to 5-2 in reply before Root’s enterprising 67 not out from 77 balls led England to 98-2 at the close.

He put on 93 with Jonny Bairstow, who is 24 not out, to steady England after openers Dom Sibley (0) and Zak Crawley (5) both fell, once again, to left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya. 

Embuldeniya took two wickets in his first 19 balls after England’s spinners had earlier bowled 64 wicketless overs.

Mark Wood took 3-84 in support of 38-year-old Anderson, who became the oldest fast bowler to take a five-wicket haul in Asia.

England, who lead the two-Test series 1-0, are likely to have to bat beyond Sri Lanka’s first-innings score to win on a surface that is beginning to offer turn to the spinners.

When Embuldeniya dismissed Sibley and Crawley for the third successive innings, that looked a long way off, but Root and Bairstow came through a difficult passage to leave the game finely poised.

Root, who scored 228 in the first Test, batted superbly and swept the spinners, both conventionally and reverse, at almost every opportunity.

Bairstow survived a tight lbw decision on review – a ball from off-spinner Perera would have hit leg stump but the not out on-field decision was upheld – but he too batted positively.

Still, the difficulties Embuldeniya caused put into perspective the performance of England slow bowlers Jack Leach and Dom Bess, who finished with combined figures of 0-195.

Their lack of threat and failure to build pressure allowed Sri Lanka to score more than they should have, especially given the performances of Anderson and Wood.

Dickwella batted excellently for his highest Test score, as did Perera – who put on 89 with the wicketkeeper, 32 with number 10 Embuldeniya and 17 with last man Asitha Fernando.

Problems for Sibley and Crawley

With a four-Test series in India to follow this match, the form of England’s spinners is an ever-growing concern, as are the performances of Sibley and Crawley.

As a pair, they have scored eight runs combined from 55 balls against Embuldeniya, with six dismissals, and neither has reached double figures in the series.

Sibley played a poor shot going back to a straighter, quicker ball and was trapped lbw. Crawley got a good delivery that turned, bounced and took the outside edge en route to first slip.

Rory Burns, who missed this series for the birth of his child, is expected to return as opener in India, but with Bairstow set to be rested for the first two Tests, England have limited options at the top of the order.

England bowler Wood on TMS: “James Anderson is a genius. All the hours he’s put in back home in the cold, all the running he’s done, he’s as fit as he’s ever been, and all of that hard work has definitely paid off for him. The skill level that he’s got is through the roof and very similar to Broady [Stuart Broad], they just never seem to miss their length.”

Former England captain Sir Alastair Cook: “Sri Lanka grinded their way to a total, but those extra runs they got are so important.”Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have shown this is still a very good wicket to bat on. Root has been in fantastic form on this tour. He has just carried on and he’s so hard to bowl at as a spinner because he’s got every option covered.”

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