LONDON: Jonny Bairstow rode his luck to again rescue England from a top-order collapse with a century on the first day of the third Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s yesterday.
At stumps, England were 279 for six, having been 84 for four when Bairstow (107 not out) came to the crease.
It had been a similar story when Bairstow revived England from the depths of 83 for five in the first Test with a superb 140 on his Headingley home ground in a match England eventually won by an innings and 88 runs.
Rather than scoring a maiden Test century at Lord’s, Bairstow should have been out for 11 yesterday when he clipped Nuwan Pradeep firmly off his pads straight to mid-wicket only for Shaminda Eranga to drop the catch.
The Yorkshireman had another break when Eranga, selected despite having his action reported in England’s series-clinching nine-wicket win in the second Test at the Riverside, reviewed a rejected leg-before appeal when the batsman had made 56.
Replays showed the ball hitting leg stump, but not enough, according to the Decision Review System, to overturn Indian umpire S Ravi’s original not out decision.
Apart from Bairstow, only England captain Alastair Cook (85), who won the toss in sunny conditions ideal for batting, passed fifty yesterday, with Chris Woakes 23 not out at stumps.
Sri Lanka performed admirably with the ball, albeit they were again sloppy in the field, on a good pitch where there was a touch of seam movement.
Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep shared four wickets while impressive left-arm spinner Rangana Herath rook an economical two for 45 in 21 overs.
England had already won this three-Test series at 2-0 up.
Cook insisted in the build-up to this match that England were determined to correct their habit of losing ‘dead’ Tests in series they’d already won following heavy defeats at the end of victorious campaigns at home to Australia in 2015 and away to South Africa earlier this year.
Cook, presented with a commemorative bat before play to mark his achievement in becoming the first England batsman to score 10,000 Test runs, a landmark he reached at the Riverside, and fellow opener Alex Hales compiled a fifty stand in 74 balls.
But Herath struck with just his fourth ball as he had Hales (18), slogging across the line to a ball that turned, caught by Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews at slip.
By his own admission, Nick Compton was playing for his Test place.
But England’s number three, on his Middlesex home ground, fell for one when he was caught behind off a gentle Lakmal away-swinger.
Lakmal struck again when he had Joe Root (three) leg-before, hitting across the line.