Recalled Bairstow shines with bat to revive England
Jonny Bairstow swept the spinners with confidence, the best illustration being when he slog-swept Pushpakumara over the square-leg boundary for an effortless six.
COLOMBO - Jonny Bairstow, restored to the side but shorn of his keeping gloves, hit a fluent 81 not out to guide England to 197 for three at tea on the opening day of the third and final test against Sri Lanka on Friday.
The wicketkeeper missed the series opener in Galle with an ankle injury and the brilliant batting and neat glovework of his replacement Ben Foakes kept Bairstow out of England’s series-clinching victory in Pallekele.
Brought back in the dead rubber as England’s fifth candidate batting at number three in as many tests, Bairstow added 100 with Joe Root and 61 with Ben Stokes to rescue the tourists, who were 36-2 at one stage in the morning session.
Stokes overcame his occasional discomfort against the spinners to reach 38 not out at the break when light drizzle prompted the groundstaff to cover the pitch.
Earlier, Root continued what has become almost a test match ritual of late when the England captain won his eighth successive toss before electing to bat.
However, off-spinner Dilruwan Perera soon drew first blood for Sri Lanka when he hit the top of Rory Burns’s off-stump to dismiss the opener for 14.
Malinda Pushpakumara drove home the early advantage in his first over when Keaton Jennings (13) tickled the left-arm spinner to Roshen Silva, who had been stationed at leg slip precisely for that purpose.
Bairstow used his feet against the spinners and swept them with confidence, the best illustration being when he slog-swept Pushpakumara over the square-leg boundary for an effortless six.
England scored at close to four-runs-per-over in the morning session but Root’s usual composure deserted him after lunch when he fluffed a slog-sweep attempt against wrist-spinner Lakshan Sandakan and was caught at midwicket to depart for 46.
Stokes survived two leg-before appeals before he could open his account and Sri Lanka were unable to challenge the not-out decisions having blown both their reviews in the first session.
The tourists brought in seamer Stuart Broad for the rested James Anderson, while Bairstow replaced injured all-rounder Sam Curran.
Suranga Lakmal continued to lead the hosts in absence of regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who has not recovered from a groin injury.