x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Andrew Strauss finds his form for England against Sri Lanka

The England captain scores 61 as side finish day on 154 for one, 121 runs adrift of Sri Lanka.

England captain Andrew Strauss scored 61 against Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test.
England captain Andrew Strauss scored 61 against Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test.

Graeme Swann believes Andrew Strauss answered some of his critics yesterday as his half-century helped England take a grip on the second Test against Sri Lanka.

The under-fire captain made 61 as England reached the close on the second day on 154 for one and in sight of Sri Lanka's 275 with three days of the match still to go.

While it meant Strauss is still without a Test century in 24 innings his patient knock helped set up a strong position, aided further by Alastair Cook's unbeaten 77, as England look to level the two-Test series.

"He proved himself today, he got another good start, and he'll be kicking himself he got 50 and didn't go on," Swann, the spin bowler, said on Sky Sports 1.

"We're very happy. He's been having a few questions asked of him in the media. Everyone is behind him."

Asked if he thought the media pressure on Strauss was justified, Swann added: "Personally I don't, I'm Andrew Strauss's greatest ally.

"I think we should let him get on with scoring the hundreds he will undoubtedly do.

"He's probably frustrated. He's been in good form. Every time he bats he gets a start. He's probably in one of those patches when you don't quite perform as you like."

The pressure on Strauss has reflected the poor performances of England's batting line-up in Asia this year - during which time they have lost all four Tests.

But following yesterday's solid start, after Swann claimed three quick wickets this morning to wrap up the Sri Lanka tail after they had begun the day on 238 for six, the spinner is looking for a decisive first-innings lead.

England were positive at the start of the afternoon session, with Strauss and Cook both finding the boundary inside seven deliveries, and working hard for singles.

Their tactics were much better against the left-arm spinner Rangana Herath this time, with the much-debated sweep shot put into storage and both batsmen playing safer shots with the turn.

Both openers reached their half-centuries in the space of a couple of minutes, Strauss in 105 balls and Cook taking 164.

Strauss was dismissed by Tillakaratne Dilshan. Having edged the off-spinner short of slip two balls earlier, Strauss went to cut a ball too full for the shot and was smartly caught by Prasanna Jayawardene, the wicketkeeper.

"It was just what the doctor ordered, especially after the first innings at Galle [in the first Test]," Swann said. "It was important to get out and start well - 150 for one speaks for itself. It was exceptional from the top order.

"We're in a good position, but we're not completely there. There is going to be some attritional cricket on what is a slow wicket.

"We need to push past their score. We've got to look for 400 I think."

Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach, said his bowlers would have to improve today to get back into the game, adding that a change in the England top order's tactics had left his side now needing to reassess on a pitch that did not provide as much turn as he expected.

"The way they played in the first innings at Galle and the way they played today was totally different," he said. "They certainly looked like they had a good think about playing our spinners, although I was expecting the pitch to do more.

"It didn't really go that much, maybe that was the difference. It gives us something to think about.

"We've got to get back in the match, so we'll have to bowl well up front. I expect my guys to be up for a scrap [today]."

* Press Association

8.30am, Ten Cricket