Moeen Ali and Jack Leach star as England thrash Sri Lanka by 211 runs to claim first Test victory away from home since October 2016
- England have beaten Sri Lanka by 211 runs to win the first test in Galle
- England’s trio of spinners took eight of the 10 second innings wickets
- Moeen Ali claimed 4-71, Jack Leach finished with 3-60 and Adil Rashid took 1-58
- It is England’s first victory away from home since they beat Bangladesh in 2016
- Rangana Herath was run-out with the final ball of his 92nd and final Test match
England finally ended their long, two-year run without an away victory here today when they comprehensively defeated Sri Lanka by 211 runs to earn their first ever win at this Galle fortress.
It was all over with a day to spare with five wickets falling after tea, three of them to Moeen Ali who produced his best overseas bowling since he took five wickets against Bangladesh at Dhaka in 2016.
It was on that tour that England won in Chittagong – only by 22 runs – and since then they have struggled in India, Australia and New Zealand, going 13 away Tests without a win before today’s triumph.
England have beaten Sri Lanka by 211 runs to win the first Test match of the series in Galle
Rangana Herath was the final wicket to fall, run-out as his last act in an illustrious career
Moeen Ali starred after tea on the fourth day taking three of the final five wickets to fall
He claimed the wicket of Niroshan Dickwella with the very first ball after the tea break
Ben Stokes makes no mistake as Akila Dananjaya was caught at first slip off Ali’s bowling
Jack Leach (right) took three wickets as England’s spinners took eight of the ten wickets
Leach claimed the wicket of three of England’s top six in just his second Test match
Adil Rashid also contributed taking the wicket of Dilruwan Perera to leave Sri Lanka nine down
The off-spinner ended up with four wickets in the second innings and eight in the match
It the first time Joe Root has captained a side to victory in a Test match away from home
Jack Leach had taken England two huge steps closer to their first ever win in Galle in the middle session with contrasting wickets as Sri Lanka desperately tried to take this first Test into a final day.
The left-arm spinner, in only his second Test, was gifted his second wicket of the day when Kusal Mendis inexplicably tried to hit him over the top for a second successive four and could only find Moeen Ali at long-off.
If that was gifted to Leach then there was nothing fortunate about his third wicket of the innings when he produced an absolute beauty that pitched leg and took the top of Dinesh Chandimal’s off-stump.
Leach could barely believe it himself but it gave England a realistic chance of wrapping this first Test up, against all the odds, with a day to spare.
It was not all plain sailing for England and for a while they regretted giving Angelo Mathews a life when Jimmy Anderson dropped the easiest of chances at mid-wicket off the bowling of Ben Stokes when he was on 18.The former Sri Lanka captain had been given a going over by Stokes in a fiery spell but all the all-rounder’s good work in setting the wicket up was undone by a lapse of concentration by England’s record wicket-taker.
They had earlier taken three wickets in the first session and saw another easy chance go down, this one by Stokes himself at slip, but it was not costly as Dimuth Karunaratne was soon dismissed by Moeen Ali off his own bowling.
Moeen, the pick of the bowlers in the first innings with four wickets, struck immediately after tea when he had Niroshan Dickwella brilliantly caught one-handed by Stokes and then the obdurate Mathews lobbed him straight to cover for 53.
It was Moeen again who forced Akila Dananjaya to edge to Stokes and give the off-spinner his best overseas figures, overtaking the seven wickets he took in England’s victory against South Africa in Durban nearly three years ago.
Stokes celebrates after taking the wicket of Dhananhaya de Silva before lunch
Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis made a dogged 45 before a reckless shot saw him caught at long-off
Angelo Mathews top scored for the hosts with 53 – his second half-century of the match
Ben Foakes was named man of the match for his debut 100 that saved England’s first innings
And it was all over when Adil Rashid got rid of Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath, of all things, was run out in the last Test of his great career.
It is remarkable that this Test has still to be affected by the rain that ruined the one-day series between these sides and has been seriously affecting Galle seemingly at all times other than when cricket is being played.
Twelve hours of torrential rain started pretty much as soon as the third day ended but had stopped in time for today’s fourth day to start on time which is a huge tribute to the work of the groundstaff here.
So on to Kandy for Wednesday’s second Test with England now needing to decide whether they can somehow squeeze the fit-again Jonny Bairstow into their side and find room for another seamer that conditions in Pallekelle will favour. They face quite a selection dilemma – but it’s one they will relish.
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