Dan Lawrence stars on debut as he makes impressive fifty in first Test against Sri Lanka
Lawrence is the first England player to go beyond fifty in their first Test innings since Ben Foakes made a brilliant hundred in Galle back in November 2018; the Essex batsman was assured from the outset as he shared a 173-run stand with Joe Root
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 15/01/21 7:24pm
Dan Lawrence made an impressive half-century on debut as England tightened their grip on the first Test in Sri Lanka, and the Essex batsman received unanimous praise for his assured start to Test match life in Galle.
Lawrence (73) struck seven boundaries in his 150-ball knock, sharing a magnificent 173-run partnership with captain Joe Root (168 no), who made his first Test hundred since November 2019 as England cemented their advantage on day two.
Root stole the headlines courtesy of his 18th Test century, but the England skipper was delighted with Lawrence's first foray into the Test match arena, claiming that it could mark the start of something 'very special'.
"I was very impressed. I thought he played magnificently well. He showed exactly why he deserves the opportunity to play and I hope it's the start of something very special for him," Root told the ECB.
"It's great to see guys come in and have success straight away. I think the most important thing is they see that as the start now, something to build on and not be happy with it, make sure it's the start of something very exciting. I'm sure it will be."
Lawrence could have been forgiven for displaying debut nerves, but he was confidence personified, setting the tone for an eye-catching display by getting off the mark with his very first delivery.
The 23-year-old rotated the strike superbly, and the highlight of his innings saw him deposit Lasith Embuldeniya for an extravagant six over long-on - his elongated pose following the maximum demonstrating his conviction.
It took prolonged applause from the England balcony for Lawrence to realise he had brought up his fifty, which typified his nonchalance.
He departed 27 runs short of a dream hundred when he clipped a Dilruwan Perera delivery to Kusal Mendis at short leg, although by then, he had certainly made his mark.
"You've gone through all those periods of ups and downs, and this is the moment you've dreamt of and you want to deliver," reflected former England captain Nasser Hussain.
"More important than the runs you get actually, is how you look? Do you look a Test match player?
"From that little innings there, if you've seen Dan Lawrence, you think: 'He has got something'. You don't build him up too much, but he has got something. He's looking to score, and he looks a good player."
Lawrence is the 76th player to make a fifty in the first innings of his debut Test - the first since Ben Foakes struck a brilliant hundred against Sri Lanka on the same ground in 2018.
The Essex star averages 63 against spin bowling in first-class cricket and that pedigree was illustrated throughout his innings, with Rob Key claiming Lawrence had the poise of an experienced Test match batsman.
"Nasser made a good point, it's not just how many runs you get, it's how you look. Do you look the part? I thought from ball one he did," Key added.
"I know they go away on Lions trips and they play a bit out in the subcontinent now before they play a Test match, but this was just absolutely brilliant.
"The way he used his hands, the confidence he had. I thought he looked like he had played 20 or 30 Test matches at least. "
Lawrence was dropped on 60 by Mendis off the bowling of Wanindu Hasaranga, before he was afforded another reprieve on 68, advancing down the track against Embuldeniya, only to be spared by wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella.
These were rare blemishes in an otherwise impeccable knock, and with Rory Burns, Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes all poised to return for next month's series against India, Michael Atherton believes England have plenty of welcome selection dilemmas ahead.
"He gave a couple of chances after 60 and then got out - actually I thought it was a pretty good ball he got out to - the second new ball that just kicked a bit," Atherton said.
"Up until then, up until about 60, he played flawlessly and I agree completely with Rob [Key], he looked the part. There are going to be some very interesting selection decisions down the line.
"Obviously you've got [Ben] Stokes, [Ollie] Pope who will want to come back, you've got Rory Burns. Suddenly, England are starting to gather a group of Test class batsmen that will make life difficult for the selectors."
Watch day three of the first Test between Sri Lanka and England, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4:10am on Saturday.