JOE ROOT rescued England from big trouble after Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley continued their torment against spin.
Captain Root finished day two of the Second Test with 67 not out after the openers were both dismissed by Sri Lanka left-arm twirly man Lasith Embuldeniya.
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Incredibly, Embuldeniya has now removed Sibley and Crawley six times out of six in the series so far and neither batsman has reached double figures.
Sibley was lbw and his scores in the series so far are 4, 2 and 0. Crawley, who edged to slip, has returns of 9, 8 and 5.
The pair have faced Embuldeniya for a total of 55 balls, scoring eight runs and being dismissed six times.
Rarely has one bowler had such a hold over two batsmen.
Of course, it is completely alien to Sibley and Crawley, who are used to facing seam and swing bowlers when they take guard against the new ball in England.
Embuldeniya’s success was in stark contrast to England spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess, who bowled an aggregate of 64 overs without taking a wicket and conceding 195 runs.
Thank goodness for the immaculate James Anderson, whose figures were a remarkable 29-13-40-6.
Sri Lanka were all out for 381 and, by the close, England were 98-2 with Root and Jonny Bairstow having so far put on 93.
Root, who scored a double century in the First Test, again looked a class apart and moved to sixth on the list of England’s all-time Test run scorers, passing Geoffrey Boycott.
Only Alastair Cook, Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart, David Gower and Kevin Pietersen are ahead of Root now.
Anderson completed his 30th five-wicket haul in Test cricket and his six victims mean he took as many wickets in one innings as the great Aussie fast bowler Dennis Lillee managed in his whole career in Asia.
Lillee is considered an all-time legend but some people still claim Anderson is nothing more than a home-track bully on England’s helpful pitches.
That’s nonsense, of course. His skill on the slow, unresponsive surfaces of the sub-continent is wonderful these days.
At aged 38 years and 177 days, Anderson became the oldest quick bowler to take a five-for in Asia.
He also now has the longest time gap between his first and latest five-for in Test cricket – 17 years, seven months and 30 days – from 2003 to 2021.
So the records continue to tot up for the Lancashire swing king.
He struck early when Angelo Mathews was given out caught behind via the inside edge following a review.
Mathews was out for 110, having added just three runs to his overnight score.
Mark Wood then had debutant Ramesh Mendis well caught down the legside by a diving Jos Buttler.
Niroshan Dickwella and Dilruwan Perera then put on 89 invaluable runs for the seventh wicket before Anderson struck again.
He coaxed Dickwella into giving a catch to Leach at extra cover with an aerial drive and then had Suranga Lakmal held in the gully for a second ball duck.
Dickwella was dismissed for 92 and now shares the record of 16 with India’s Chetan Chauhan for most Test fifties without a century.
Wood and Sam Curran took the last two wickets and all ten wickets in an innings in Sri Lanka fell to seamers for the first time since England did it at Kandy in 2001.
Darren Gough, with four, Andy Caddick (four) and Craig White (two) were the bowlers back then.
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