x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

England lose momentum after dropped catches in the field

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene capitalises on four chances to help himself to unbeaten 168 on first day of the first Test.

Mahela Jayawardene played a captain’s innings, ploughing a lone furrow in an unbeaten 168 on the first day in Galle.
Mahela Jayawardene played a captain’s innings, ploughing a lone furrow in an unbeaten 168 on the first day in Galle.

GALLE // James Anderson says England let Sri Lanka off the hook on day one of the first Test but does not expect the team to dwell on their dropped catches.

Anderson took two quick wickets, including his 250th in Tests, as the hosts slipped to 67 for four but Mahela Jayawardene batted superbly for 168 not out to lead the fightback.

By the close of play he had hauled his side to 289 for eight, but was fortunate to see England put him down four times.

Anderson got his hand to a tough chance off Graeme Swann with Jayawardene on 64 and also put down a caught and bowled attempt when he was 10 short of his hundred.

Worse was to follow as Monty Panesar's fielding problems came back with vengeance, the spinner dropping two straightforward catches in successive overs in the closing stages.

Anderson knows England were sloppy but does not expect it to cast a shadow over an impressive effort with the ball.

"Catches are crucial to taking 20 wickets in a Test match and a few of them maybe weren't the most difficult, so it's frustrating for us that they went down," he said.

"We're disappointed, especially because we focused on that at the start of the trip. But we have to put it behind us. The more we dwell on it the more we will get frustrated. I think if you gave us 289 for eight at the start of the day we'd have taken it for sure. We had the momentum but we just didn't manage to finish them off."

Panesar looked visibly troubled by his gaffes in the field but Anderson had words of encouragement for his colleague.

"Obviously everyone is upset if they drop a catch and, to be honest, I thought it took the shine off what was a brilliant day for Monty," he said.

"I thought he was fantastic with the ball and stuck to his job well. Sometimes the ball follows you around in the field and it did with Monty for the last half hour, but I'm sure he'll put it behind him."

While Anderson was eager play down England's profligacy, Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach, had a different take on proceedings.

He pointed out that Jayawardene had already made the tourists pay by going on to a big hundred and questioned the effect it would have on their mental state.

"I hope it can affect the side massively," he said. "At the end of the day when it's really hot and there's a lot of fatigue in the fielding unit, to see a chance or two go down is quite demoralising."

Anderson rated Jayawardene's graceful knock - the batsman's 30th in Tests - as one of the best he has witnessed and hopes it can inspire England's batsmen.

"It was one of the better Test innings I've seen, considering nobody else got much above 20," he said.

"It was an incredible effort from him and he carried his team for the whole day. Our batsmen have got to dig deep and take a leaf out of Mahela's book."