Cricket: James Anderson puts England on front foot against Sri Lanka

James Anderson stretches in vain to hold on to a catch. Picture: Getty
James Anderson stretches in vain to hold on to a catch. Picture: Getty
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JAMES Anderson became the sixth player to take 250 Test wickets for England as they enjoyed a fine start to the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Anderson got the ball rolling for the tourists when he dismissed opener Lahiru Thirimanne and followed up by sending back Kumar Sangakkara with the next delivery.

Prasanna Jayawardene hits out during day one of the first Test. Picture: Getty

Prasanna Jayawardene hits out during day one of the first Test. Picture: Getty

Anderson also effected a fortunate run out, while there was a debut wicket for all-rounder Samit Patel, chosen ahead of Ravi Bopara as England added a third spinner to their ranks.

At tea Sri Lanka were 168 for five with Mahela Jayawardene, a man with over 2,000 Test runs in Galle, unbeaten on 80.

With many local fans priced out of attending, the Barmy Army dominated the stands - although those unwilling to pay for hugely inflated tickets were able to watch the action from the picturesque fort overlooking the ground.

England had been desperate the win the toss and bat but they could scarcely have imagined a better start to the day after being asked to field.

Anderson took just six balls to defeat Thirimanne, rapping the left-hander on the pads as he left a straighter delivery.

England’s appeal was rejected by Bruce Oxenford, with replays also shooting down an ambitious review.

Anderson needed just two more balls to see off Thirimanne, though, as he sent a thick edge to Graeme Swann at second slip.

The wicket brought up Anderson’s landmark and he celebrated in stunning fashion by dismissing Sangakkara for a golden duck.

Sangakkara fenced at one he could have left, feeding wicketkeeper Matt Prior the simplest of catches.

Sri Lanka, fresh from the Asia Cup, were still in one-day mode, with Tillakaratne Dilshan flashing hard outside off stump for two streaky boundaries.

He was next to go, for 11, nicking Stuart Broad to Andrew Strauss at first slip.

With four overs gone, England were sensing blood with the score at 15 for three.

But Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera proved more difficult to tempt.

Jayawardene looked immediately at ease, hitting cleanly through the off-side, while Samaraweera was rigid in defence.

He took 31 balls to get off the mark as Monty Panesar sent down four maidens in his first five overs.

Swann, on the other hand, saw his third ball launched for six by Jayawardene.

Sri Lanka inched to 66 for three at the break, leaving plenty more hard work to do.

But with the ball getting older and the pitch flatter, England needed a slice of fortune to get their fourth wicket.

Anderson was again the man to provide it as he got a fingertip to Jayawardene’s straight drive, leaving Samaraweera run out for 20 at the non-striker’s end.

That ended a 52-run partnership, but Jayawardene was unperturbed and promptly collected three boundaries off Anderson’s next over.

New man Dinesh Chandimal, in his first home Test, got off the mark with a flat six off Panesar and clubbed a second maximum off Patel.

Jayawardene drove a Panesar full toss for four to reach a hard-earned 50 but England were able to strike at the other end.

Strauss shuffled his trio of spinners as Anderson and Broad rested and it was the most junior, Patel, who claimed the wicket.

Chandimal, having compiled a lively 27, went for one big shot too many and miscued the ball to Bell at cover to give Patel a first Test scalp.

Prasanna Jayawardene joined his namesake at the crease and looked to take on Swann immediately, making his way to 21 by the interval.