England’s pace-spin duo of Matthew Hoggard and Monty Panesar combined to destroy Sri Lanka for 188 on the opening day of the first cricket Test on Saturday.
England replied with 49-1 by stumps after losing opener Alastair Cook to the third ball of the innings when he was trapped leg-before by 100-Test veteran Chaminda Vaas.
Captain Michael Vaughan was unbeaten on 13 and Ian Bell was on 36 as England attempt to put up a big score on a barren wicket that is later expected to assist the spin of Muttiah Muralitharan.
The off-spinner, who needs five wickets to overtake retired Australian Shane Warne’s world record tally of 708, came on in the 12th over and conceded two runs in three overs.
Hoggard grabbed four wickets in a deadly opening burst while Panesar cleaned up the Sri Lankan tail after a defiant sixth-wicket stand of 104 between Kumar Sangakkara and wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene.
Left-handed Sangakkara made 92 and Jayawardene chipped in with 51 to rescue the hosts, who were tottering at 42-5 after electing to bat at the Asgiriya Stadium.
Sangakkara continued the same form that saw him compile 192 in the second Test against Australia in Hobart last month.
He hit 13 boundaries before being denied a 16th Test century by Paul Collingwood, who picked up a brilliant one-handed catch at backward point as the batsman cut a short ball from James Anderson.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene had retrieved the situation for the hosts before Panesar broke the partnership 30 minutes before tea when Jayawardene patted a ball to Cook at forward short-leg.
Panesar also bowled Vaas just before the break and the last four Sri Lankan wickets fell for eight runs as England regained their pre-lunch advantage.
About 3 000 English supporters, who almost outnumbered local fans, saw 30-year-old Hoggard slice through the batting in the morning session, with three of his victims falling to catches by wicket-keeper Matthew Prior.
Left-handed Sanath Jayasuriya, who is reportedly considering retiring from Test cricket before the series is over, hit two superb cover drives in the first two overs, but did not last long.
The 38-year-old perished in the third over when he drove Ryan Sidebottom uppishly to the cover region, where Kevin Pietersen lunged to his right to take a good catch with both hands.
Michael Vandort fell in the 10th over when he mistimed a flick off Hoggard on the slow pitch and offered Vaughan an easy catch at mid-on.
England struck immediately after the first drinks interval when Hoggard forced Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene (one) to edge an outswinger to Prior.
The Yorkshire paceman, who fashioned England’s win in a first-class match in Colombo earlier this week with a five-wicket haul, then removed Chamara Silva and Jehan Mubarak in similar fashion in his next over.
England awarded a Test cap to Ravi Bopara, preferring the 22-year-old Essex all-rounder to Owais Shah for the number six spot left vacant by the injured Andrew Flintoff.
The tourists also left out Steve Harmison to pick a three-man seam attack in Hoggard, Anderson and Sidebottom, with a lone specialist spinner, Monty Panesar.
Sri Lanka also chose three seamers, leaving out leg-spinner Malinga Bandara to play Dilhara Fernando. — AFP