Lahiru Thirimanne hit an undefeated 76 as Sri Lanka battled back to 156-2 in their second innings at Galle, trailing England by 130; watch day four of the first Test live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4.15am on Sunday
Last Updated: 16/01/21 3:24pm
England spinner Jack Leach admits his lack of match practice proved costly after failing to find consistency with the ball as Sri Lanka fought back in the first Test at Galle.
The left-armer has sent down more overs in the match than any other England bowler so far, but struggled for line and length and conceded almost three and a half runs per over as Sri Lanka advanced to 156-2 in their second innings, reducing the deficit to 130.
However, this is only Leach’s fifth match of any description since the original tour of Sri Lanka was postponed 10 months ago following the outbreak of Covid-19 – leading to an inevitable element of rustiness.
Sri Lanka vs England
January 17, 2021, 4:25am
“It’s a slow wicket but there’s enough there – it’s just important to bowl the right pace that allows you to bowl the right length as well,” said the 29-year-old.
“I think that’s where I probably came up a little bit short. I fell short on match overs, I guess.
“You can do as much as you want in the nets, but you need to do that stuff in games and I’ve found I’ve bowled a bit short when I tried to bowl quicker.
“So that’s something to look at tomorrow. I’m someone who’s always thinking about what we’re likely to face in the morning and how I want to bowl, so it’ll be reflecting tonight and then going again.”
Despite Leach’s travails on day three, he did at least pick up a wicket shortly before stumps, having Kusal Mendis caught behind for 15 after a stand of 54 with Lahiru Thirimanne, who will resume on 76 when the Test continues on Sunday morning, live on Sky Sports Cricket.
England are still in a strong position and Leach remains optimistic that he and his fellow bowlers can make early inroads as they push for a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
“It was tough work for us, but we’re still leading by 130 and there’s a lot to play for in the morning,” he added. “The new ball’s around the corner so hopefully we can pick up some early wickets.
“I’ve had a little bit of experience playing on these wickets and sometimes things can happen in the first session. With the wicket under covers overnight and a little bit of dew, I don’t know whether it’ll do a little bit more.
“It’s definitely something for us to look forward to and I think we can get a few more wickets.”
Speaking on The Cricket Debate, former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene also felt Leach and off-spinner Dom Bess had been unable to put the home batsmen under sufficient pressure as they faced a 286-run deficit.
“Bess wasn’t hitting those lengths consistently,” said Jayawardene. “For both openers, that was a challenge for them to face the off-spinner but he gave them quite a few singles on the back foot and gave them the initial tempo to bat on that wicket.
“You’re going to get beaten on the outside edge on this wicket but the batsmen were up for the challenge. I think that’s the key – you have to keep asking that question on the front foot.
“Let them sweep, let them come and hit you but you need to hit that mark, you need to control that length which is going to ask questions of a batsman in the sub-continent and then vary that pace.
“That initial period where they could have put pressure on, they were not good enough – the consistency wasn’t there.”
Watch day four of the first Test between Sri Lanka and England live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4.15am on Sunday.