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England wrap up seven-wicket victory with Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence holding their nerve

Rob Bagchi
·13 min read
Sri Lanka vs England, first Test day five: live score and latest updates from Galle
Sri Lanka vs England, first Test day five: live score and latest updates from Galle

Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence showed their composure to guide England to a seven-wicket victory on the final morning of the first Test against Sri Lanka.

The pair had come together in chaotic fashion on the fourth evening in Galle, the tourists succumbing to a clatter of nerves as they slipped to 14 for three chasing just 74.

Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and captain Joe Root all fell cheaply, but the fourth-wicket pair extinguished the anxiety to leave only 36 needed on day five.

Resuming on 38 for three they went about their business with a renewed clarity, making light of any overnight concerns they or the England fans watching at home may still have harboured.

They finished with a stand of 62, turning an embattled start into a walk in the park and delivered the result that had seemed inevitable all the way back to the first afternoon when they hustled their hosts out for just 135.

The ball was still turning sharply but the scoring was brisk enough to erase any doubt, with the mission accomplished in 36 minutes and 9.2 overs.

Bairstow, who had been at least partly complicit in running out Root for one during the previous drama, led the way with 35 not out and had the honour of hitting the winning runs.

In doing so the Yorkshireman made it four overseas Test wins in a row - the previous three dating back to last winter's tour of South Africa - a streak last seen in the 1950s.

Having earlier cut his second ball of the day for four to third man, he wrapped things up with a second boundary as he stooped low and swept Dilruwan Perera round the corner to make it 1-0 in the two-match series.

Lawrence, meanwhile, completed a highly successful first appearance in England colours. With a dashing 73 already to his name from the first innings, he showed bundles of composure in entirely different circumstances and his willingness to take on a challenge such as this speaks well of the 23-year-old's readiness for international cricket.

He had one moment of fortune along the way when home skipper Dinesh Chandimal declining to review an lbw appeal from Perera that DRS would have upheld, but it was academic in the wider context.

Showing respect but not deference to the opposition and the tricky pitch, he was enterprising in his strokeplay and followed Bairstow's calm lead.

The latter is a veteran next to Lawrence, with this his 71st Test appearance, but he had last appeared in this format way back in 2019. After a composed 47, his knock here confirmed him as a viable long-term candidate for the number three slot.

Batting places are set to be at a premium soon, with Rory Burns, Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes all due to return but both Bairstow and Lawrence have made a strong case for retention. Press Association

05:22 AM

Man of the match Joe Root speaks

To come with little prep, and play in the manner we have has been really impressive.Great effort yesterday, not a lot fell for us, and for the two spinners to get five-fors is a brilliant effort, particularly with the little cricket they've played.Series like these are always tough but without the prep it's testament to their characters. To perform like we did after lunch was a good effort, and we'll keep looking to get better, but really pleasing start. Brilliant achievement, think the exciting thing is there's more to come form this group, most important thing is we have that attitude into the next Tests.The thing that pleased me the most [about his innings]? My mindset, felt I got into a good place managed to get my feet apart, get forward and back well, good balance between attack and defence and didn't waver. People have been critical of my conversion, so it's nice to go up and make a big one.

05:14 AM

Dinesh Chandimal speaks

It was a crucial toss to win, but the first innings cost us the game. You have to get a big total in the first innings, so that cost us on this kind of track.Credit to Thirimanne, Angelo, Kusal Janith, everyone did their bit as a batting unit in the second innings, and another 70-80 runs it could have been a different story. We have to take the positives and look to the next one.First day, coming from South Africa, we played like we were still there - and that cost us. We'll learn from our mistakes, did well in the second, so that's a plus. First innings will be crucial [on Friday].

05:00 AM

Jonny Bairstow speaks

Pretty tough. A lot of balls were raising off the bat, I'm sure you'll see some chunks out of the pitch. We had to be precise, playing back because of the bounce. It was tricky but it was pleasing for all the boys and great to be back. Woody, the hard toil he's put in, Rooty, Bessy's five-for in the first innings, Leachy ... huge credit to those boys.

It was 36 runs ... the mindset was to go out and be busy. Looking to score otherwise there's a good ball coming your way

It was tricky [life in the bubble] , I'd had six nights at home since August so I was happy to have Christmas come around. We're going cricket ground to hotel for months. I'm not going to lie, it's tricky. The Skype chats keep you going and moments like this make it all special ...We thank you all for your support, whether you're waking up at 4.30 or catching some cricket, it means a lot to us, we appreciate it. We've got a lone ranger from the Barmy Army, fantastic he's up there and watching us. All the hard work is hopefully being enjoyed.

04:53 AM

OVER 24.2: ENG 76/3 (Bairstow 35* Lawrence 21*) chasing 74

Bairstow wins the match with a boundary, sweeping the the second ball hard for four to bring up victory by seven wickets and yells: 'Get in!'

England win their fourth successive overseas Test and fifth in succession in Sri Lanka.

04:51 AM

OVER 24: ENG 72/3 (Bairstow 31* Lawrence 21*) chasing 74

Bairstow reduces the target to a single blow with two worked through midwicket against the turn and he pats another into the onside to scamper a single. Four to win.

Lawrence halves it with a cut slapped fine of point for two.

04:48 AM

OVER 23: ENG 67/3 (Bairstow 28* Lawrence 19*) chasing 74

Dilruwan returns, having sat out an over while the legspinner came on to allow him to change ends. Lawrence uses his feet but can't beat midwicket, then check drives to long on for the single that brings up the fifty partnership and the target down to 10. Bairstow uses the off-break to glance two wide of a diving leg slip, He's batting well, using his feet, regularly rotating the strike. His busyness as a batsman is ideal for the subcontinent. Eight to win ... make it seven as Bairstow ends the over with a reverse swept single to the point sweeper.

04:44 AM

OVER 22: ENG 63/3 (Bairstow 25* Lawrence 18*) chasing 74

Change of ends for Embuldeniya. Lawrence defends calmly or taps to the infield before driving the fourth ball for a single. Bairstow opens the grip again to run two through gully, allowing he turn away from the bat to open up that area.

04:41 AM

OVER 21: ENG 60/3 (Bairstow 23* Lawrence 17*) chasing 74

Enter the legspinner and the milking continues. Bairstow and Lawrence cut for a single each, YJB off the leg-break, YDL, a little more alarmingly off the googly. Bairstow laps another for one and Lawrence drives a fourth single through mid-on. Sensible. A good night's sleep has restored their perspective and tamed last night's hob-nailed booted butterflies.

04:37 AM

OVER 20: ENG 56/3 (Bairstow 21* Lawrence 15*) chasing 74

Lawrence works Perera through square leg for a single and then a two as the bowler loses his line. Bairstow chisels a single into the onside off an inside edge as Dilruwan comes round the wicket with a leg slip and short leg. Lawrence taps an on-drive for a single and Bairstow plays tip and run into the legside.

No fuss accumulation has killed the stress and drama of last night. No seat of the pants stuff so far from England whose feet are truly planted on terra firma.

04:34 AM

Missed opportunity

Lawrence DRS - Sky Sports
Lawrence DRS - Sky Sports

04:32 AM

OVER 19: ENG 50/3 (Bairstow 19* Lawrence 11*) chasing 74

Embuldeniya rattles through his 10th over with bounce and turn. Bairstow is the closest to Root in staying very low to play the spinners and he gets down to lap sweep for a single. Embuldeniya, after beating Lawrence, fires in a dart that Lawrence flicks through midwicket for a single. That's England's fifty and a third of this morning's target knocked off.

04:29 AM

OVER 18: ENG 48/3 (Bairstow 18* Lawrence 10*) chasing 74

Both spinners, Embuldeniya and Dilruwan, turning it away and into the batsmen respecctively, are bowling too full so far, not giving the ball the opportunity to diddle the batsmen. Lawrence plays that release stroke of his, the midwicket clawed work/flick/drive for a single and Bairstow opens his grip to run one wide of slip.

Perera rips one into Lawrence, who plays down the wrong line and is struck above the knee. Sri Lanka don't review because it looked high but Hawk-Eye Pearce says it would have clipped the top of off, three reds.

Opportunity knocked ... but Sri Lanka weren't in the mood to let it in.

04:25 AM

OVER 17: ENG 44/3 (Bairstow 16* Lawrence 8*) chasing 74

He has a slip, gully and a deepish silly point as he turns the ball away from the right-handers. But he overpitches and Bairstow opens the face to steer the ball down to the point sweeper. Lawrence drives with the turn, again covering the turn by getting on top of the bounce, and chips another single off the target.

Not the best start by the tall, elegant Embuldeniya as he now drags one down and Bairstow late cuts for four, showing the brutal power of those forearms. Heart in mouth time for the onlookers if not for Bairstow who will figure he had everything under control as he leaves the next ball which whistles past off-stump. He'll say it was perfect judgment ...

04:21 AM

OVER 16: ENG 38/3 (Bairstow 11* Lawrence 7*) chasing 74

The offie Dilruwan begins with a maiden played competently by the debutant Lawrence. The serpents in the pitch from last night are still sleeping this morning. Soft hands from Lawrence kill the turn and bounce. Embuldeniya, the best bowler so far in the game, will be on at the other end.

04:19 AM

Not out

We'll never know because it also brushed his glove.

04:18 AM

Sri Lanka review

Lawrence lbw b Dilruwan Reverse sweeping but looked to strike him outside the line.

04:08 AM

Good morning

There's a breathless hush in Galle tonight, 36 to make and the match to win ... well, not quite Vitai Lampada there are seven wickets left and despite the brutal interrogation of England's batsmen last night by Sri Lanka's finger spinners, a fourth successive Test victory overseas is within sight for England. But from a commanding position, England's flakiness against good spinners on a helpful pitch not only arouses foreboding for what lies ahead this morning, but also in the second Test, which ought to be played on a raging bunsen, the four Tests in India that begin later this month and unhelpful memories of Abu Dhabi nine years ago, the match that 'cost' Sir Geoffrey Boycott his house.

England were rolled for 72 that day, exactly half their target and Boycott's words have not lost their resonance this morning:

I never saw this coming because they had batted better in the first innings than they had in the first Test in Dubai. A target of 145 should have been gettable and I would have put my house on us knocking it off. With this lot I would be homeless this morning.Their only answer was to stay back and try to play the ball off the pitch with tentative pokes. It is not playing back that is the problem, it is playing back to good-length balls that gets you in trouble.Picking the length is vital, and if your judgment is wrong you have a problem. At the moment they are not picking the length and they have not got a clue which way the ball is turning.Before they go in to bat every batsman should have worked out in his head where he is going to try and score runs, and he should also have realised where he should not try to hit the ball because that is the area fraught with danger.England batted as if they had no idea how to score. They succumbed like lemmings jumping off a cliff: uncertain, negative and mesmerised.

It has to be different this morning. Jonny Bairstow is England's second best player of spin and after his role in the dismissal of the best player of the turning ball, his captain Joe Root, he needs to make sure he is there at the end. Dan Lawrence and Jos Buttler can also cope ... unless the tension frays their nerves.

So, we have a genuine nipper on our hands which looked a remote possibility until tea on Sunday. I'd rather hoped to be spared the 3.30am alarm call this morning but ... once more unto the breach.