Joe Root’s century capped a solid first day for England as they recovered from a shaky start to make a promising 344-5 in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s.
England slipped to 22-2 after losing both openers early on and looked in trouble before half centuries from Ian Bell and Matt Prior, along with Root’s third test hundred and his second at Lord’s, put them in charge by the close.
The new-look Test team, with three debutants and a shift in the batting order, suffered a poor start after losing the toss and being put into bat on a green wicket that provided plenty of movement early on.
Both openers went cheaply as Sri Lanka’s seamers caused problems, but a classy half-century from Bell started the recovery before Root combined with Moeen Ali and Prior in two valuable partnerships to dig the hosts out of trouble.
Debutant Ali (48) fell just short of a half century, but his 88-run partnership with Root steadied the ship, before Prior really boosted the innings with 76 off just 103 balls. In tandem with Root (102 not out) the duo piled on the runs in the closing overs.
Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews won the toss and unsurprisingly opted to bowl first given the amount of green grass on the Lord’s wicket – more so than England’s footballers will face in Manaus on Saturday by all accounts.
Sam Robson had to wait until the third over of his Test debut for England to face his first ball, as the Australian-born batsman walked out in familiar settings at the home of his county side Middlesex.
Cook farmed the strike for the first two overs before Robson eventually managed to get his England career underway, but it didn't last long as he was drawn into a shot by Nuwan Pradeep, just enough swing on the ball seeing it catch an edge through to the keeper to leave England on 14-1.
Captain Cook then followed in just the seventh over as he tried to cut a ball that was too short and close to him and he chopped onto his own stumps to go for 17 to give Nuwan Kulasekara his first Test wicket in England in his third match.
Ballance and Bell came together at 22-2 and managed to steady the ship somewhat by taking England beyond 50 before Ballance’s promising and positive innings was ended on 23 when he edged a full Pradeep delivery through to the keeper.
Bell played beautifully for his 56 before he was trapped lbw by Shaminda Eranga and eventually given out by the third umpire after Sri Lanka challenged the original not out decision.
Root dug in and passed 50, from 106 balls, before moving beyond the 1,000-run mark for Test match cricket, and Ali looked set to follow him to 50 on debut but fell two runs short when he attempted a wild slog at left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and was caught at slip.
Prior came in and almost went immediately to a huge lbw shout. He was given not out on the field and, although Sri Lanka appealed, the replays showed the impact was just in the umpire’s call zone giving him the narrowest of escapes.
Making the most of his lifeline, and looking determined to prove a point, Prior was aggressive from the off and he hit nine fours as his 76 came off just 103 balls as the increased impetus in the innings helped put England on top.
Root managed to find his way to 102 just before the close and, after being up against it for most of the day England actually finished ahead and will be looking to add more quick runs on day two.