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England in Sri Lanka: Hosts exposed tourists’ weaknesses on day three – Michael Vaughan

Kusal Perera
England’s spinners managed just four maidens between them during day three

Sri Lanka exposed England’s weaknesses on the third day of the first Test, says former captain Michael Vaughan.

England are still strong favourites to win the Test but a lower-order collapse and resolute batting from Sri Lanka frustrated the tourists in Galle.

Lahiru Thirimanne, who was dropped by Dom Sibley, made 76 not out as the hosts closed on 156-2, 130 runs behind.

“Today’s Test cricket was the old England way,” Vaughan told BBC’s Test Match Special.

“The collapse, they didn’t bowl as well, particularly the spinners, and dropped a crucial catch.

“It wasn’t a brilliant day for England but I expect them to bounce back tomorrow.”

England dominated the first two days of the match by bowling Sri Lanka out for 135 on day one and reaching 320-4 by the end of day two.

Joe Root completed a double century on day three but England lost their last six wickets for 49 runs and then managed just two wickets in 61 overs with the ball.

Dom Bess, who took 5-30 in the first innings, and fellow spinner Jack Leach struggled for control and potency, although Leach had Kusal Mendis caught behind shortly before the close.

“Today exposed a few of the weaknesses in this England team,” Vaughan said.

“The weakness is the spin and I didn’t think the spinners were quite at their best. Sri Lanka played them pretty easily.”

Vaughan also said England’s catching is a “concern” going into a series against India next month and Australia next winter.

Thirimanne was on 51 when Sibley put down a regulation catch at gully off the bowling of Sam Curran.

“You can’t drop those against the likes of Thirimanne but you definitely can’t drop them in a month’s time against [India captain] Virat Kohli, and you can’t drop them in 10 months when [Australia batsmen] Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith are out in the middle in Brisbane,” he said.

​”That is the one area in English cricket I don’t think has improved.

“You see great agility in the field and see some incredible catches but basic catches, ones you expect to be taken nine and a half times out of 10, England drop quite a few and have done for a long period in Test match cricket.”

We expected Sri Lanka to fight back – Curran

Sam Curran and Dom Bess celebrate wicket
Curran ended the day with 1-25 from seven overs

All-rounder Curran dismissed Kusal Perera for 62 with a long-hop that was caught at deep point.

Asked if day three had been a reality check, he said: “The way things happened on day one are probably not going happen very often.

“Sri Lanka fought really hard which we expected and we stuck in as a bowling group, trying to keep the scoring rate as low as possible. The guys bowled really well in tough conditions.”

This Test is England’s first since August and beforehand they had just one day of match practice, something Curran said will have caused “rustiness”.

“If you look at our spinners and some of the seamers, no one has played much cricket,” Curran said.

“It is our first Test and the build-up was short so you expect a bit of rustiness.”

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