Sri Lanka vs England 1st Test Review: Foakes, Jennings, and Moeen all Impress
It’s the start England will have dreamt of: a win at Galle in the winter’s first test match. Such a win (and performance) not only banishes the demons of a venue so notoriously tricky for English sides, but also of a somewhat blotchy away record for Joe Root’s men. The first away victory in a test match for over a year, this game generated plenty of positive headlines.
A debut and a comeback
Each of England’s innings saw one batsman in particular stand out. In the first, it was England’s debutant wicket-keeper, Ben Foakes, who added to his first international cap a first test match hundred, and looked assured in doing so against the host’s slower bowlers.
In England’s second attempt, it was opener Keaton Jennings who took his opportunity. With much being made of who would replace Alastair Cook, it was his most recent opening partner who stole the show. Jennings will feel it’s been a long time coming, too, as he’s shown glimpses of this potential in what’s been a patchy international career to date. He rarely looked troubled when the bowlers got it right, and dispatched anything loose with the authority of many a successful test-match opener.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the team’s batting was that the runs were, by and large, shared around. Sure, only two men made it to triple figures, but Buttler, Curran, and Ben Stokes all stood up at important times. A first-innings collapse threatened, but the lower order responded to it in the perfect way.
A positive spin on things
Terrible pun, but the sentiment’s hard to argue with. It’s not often that the media has praised England’s spin department in recent times, but most would be hard-pushed to be too critical of their showing in Galle. Moeen, Jack Leach, and Adil Rashid all played their part, with the former two doing the bulk of the work and impressing the most. Moeen, in particular, should be praised for the way he led the attack and took wickets at important times. His dismissal of Angelo Matthews just after tea on the second day is the clearest example of this, while his match figures of 8-137 represent an excellent reintroduction into subcontinental conditions.
Galle is traditionally helpful for the spinners, but ours out-bowled Sri Lanka’s on this occasion. Considering the way both sides tend to play spin and the fact that the hosts are far more used to these conditions, the only possible explanation as to why that happened is that England’s spin attack bowled extremely well.
England’s quicks did a good job, too. Anderson was typically economical, while Sam Curran looked far more at home than he has any right to as a 20-year old seamer plying his trade in Sri Lanka. Ben Stokes’ hostility on the final day was also far more threatening than his figures might suggest, as he extracted something from a dull pitch that no other quick was able to find.
The hosts’ performance
By all accounts, Sri Lanka disappointed in one of their highest ever wicket-taker’s final bow. That we out-performed them with bat and ball speaks volumes, especially considering England’s well-documented struggles in the subcontinent.
While their spinners bowled okay, it was a little like watching our own spin attack the last time we were out here. That is to say that it was too easy for England’s batsmen to either rotate the strike or put bad balls away to the fence. Minimal pressure was created throughout both of the visitors’ innings, and that’s often been a criticism of English spin bowling attacks in these types of conditions.
It certainly didn’t help that Sri Lanka’s skipper, Chandimal, contrived to injure himself on the first day, and they did show some signs of encouragement. Angelo Matthews looked good in the first innings, while Dilruwan Perera bagged 5 first-innings wickets. The soft nature of the hosts’ final day capitulation will be cause for concern, though, and they need to improve significantly.
What we were up to
As is always the case when the Barmy Army tours, it wasn’t just a case of watching cricket for us. We also started the “Barmy brekkie”, held an event with Matt Prior on the eve of the fourth day, and released our first podcast on what should have been day five.
All episodes of Barmy Brekkie can be found on our Instagram page, while our podcast is also available online. Stay tuned to both for a new insight into some of the behind-the-scenes operations at the Barmy Army’s base in Sri Lanka.
Our charity party midway through the test was an interesting affair. Despite the lack of disruptive weather throughout the first test, the elements decided we weren’t going to have everything go our way. A large amount of water was dropped on Unawatuna beach on November 8th, from around 6PM local time for the rest of the night. Despite the testing conditions, it was still an extremely enjoyable event, and one that allowed plenty of avid England fans to meet one of England’s most dependable wicket-keepers in recent times: Matt Prior. Thanks to all who attended, and keep an eye out for our next events.
A great start to the winter’s cricket for England then, and plenty of encouraging signs that it wasn’t just a fluke, either. Foakes should be backed throughout the series, while the spin department will hope to build upon an extremely promising start.
We hope you enjoyed the first test as much as all of us at the Barmy Army did, wherever you might have been watching from. Here’s to plenty more days of high-quality cricket from Rooty’s men.