By the end of the first Test’s opening day, Sri Lanka’s coach puffed out his cheeks and pulled down his cap to hide his face.
“Awful”, “diabolical”, “farcical” were three adjectives used by stunned commentators.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan went further.
“The batting display from Sri Lanka is right up there with the worst we’ve seen,” he said, speaking on Test Match Special.
Some expected England to find things tough during the two-Test series in Sri Lanka.
Instead, a remarkable first day ended with a beaming Stuart Broad describing it as “an absolute dream-world day” for the tourists.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for 135 before tea on day one – the lowest first-innings total recorded at the famous Galle International Stadium. By the close, England were 127-2, just eight runs behind.
Pundits, viewers and listeners alike were stunned as Sri Lankan wickets fell through some of the most inept batting ever seen.
Seven of the 10 wickets fell to attacking shots – two of them reverse sweeps.
Another batsman was caught after the ball had rebounded into the air off Jonny Bairstow’s ankle at short leg and there was also a run-out at the non-striker’s end backing up.
When it rains, it pours…
“The batting from Sri Lanka today has been absolutely diabolical,” Vaughan said.
“You go through the dismissals and England won’t be able to believe their luck.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said it was “awful batting”. Former England captain Nasser Hussain described it as “absolutely ridiculous” on Sky Sports.
“It was a joke by the end,” Hussain added.
The guilty batsmen – how the most embarrassing wickets fell
- 25-3: Having seen Stuart Broad take two early wickets, opener Kusal Perera reverse sweeps spinner Dom Bess’ second ball and gloves a catch to slip.
- 81-4: Experienced batsman Angelo Mathews slashes a wild cut to Joe Root at first slip off Broad. He had put on 56 with Dinesh Chandimal.
- 81-5: Captain Chandimal falls two balls later, hitting an aggressive drive to extra cover off the bowling of Jack Leach.
- 105-6: England spinner Bess is gifted another wicket as Niroshan Dickwella cuts a long-hop to backward point.
- 126-7: Dasun Shanaka sweeps the ball into the ankle of Bairstow, who was attempting to jump out of the way at short leg, and the ball loops up to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
- 130-9: Wanindu Hasaranga hammers a drive back down the ground but the ball flicks the fingertip of bowler Leach before hitting the stumps, running out Lasith Embuldeniya, who had left his ground at the non-striker’s end.
- 135 all out: Hasaranga is last man out, bowled playing an ambitious reverse sweep to Bess against the spin.
‘I didn’t bowl that well’ – Bess after five-wicket haul
The Test in Galle is England’s first since the home series against Pakistan last August. They only had one day of match practice in Sri Lanka – the result of a scheduled revised because of coronavirus and bad weather.
Their lack of preparation, allied to hot and humid weather and spin-friendly conditions, was expected to hamper England’s chances but they capitalised on Sri Lanka’s shambolic performance.
Off-spinner Bess, in particular, benefited. He claimed 5-30 for what was his second five-wicket haul in a Test match.
“I didn’t feel like I bowled very well,” the 23-year-old said. “I felt I was quite nervous. I hadn’t bowled in a game since the Test matches last summer.
“I didn’t feel I bowled as well as I know I can. That is cricket isn’t it? There might be days I bowl exceptionally well and go 1-100.”
‘I’ve never seen us bat that badly’
Five Sri Lanka batsmen made single-figure scores and Mathews and Chandimal were the only players to amass more than 20.
Although England lost openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, Joe Root hit an unbeaten 66 and Bairstow 47 not out in reply.
Sri Lanka batting coach Grant Flower said he was “at a loss” as to why his side batted so badly.
“You ask me who should take the blame? Every single batter should take the blame,” Flower, the former Zimbabwe batsman and brother of ex-England coach Andy, said.
“I’ve never seen us bat that badly.
“They know these conditions well and it should have been a big advantage.
“England’s batsmen showed us there’s nothing wrong with the pitch; we batted terribly.”
Worst five-wicket haul of all-time? how #bbccricket reacted
Harri Glazier: Two reverse sweeps, long hop smacked to backward point, caught off short leg’s ankle and bowled trying to hit it into the sea. An wonderfully village five-fer.
Sam Limbert: Shame in a way that Sri Lanka have been bundled out like that, but waking up during lockdown to some hilarious cricket has been a welcome joy.
Joe Gibney: If Bob Willis were alive today, he’d be dissecting Sri Lanka’s batting performance for the next two hours.
Lucy Ford: Five of the Bess (or worst if you are looking at the Sri Lanka batting) for Dom Bess.
James Baker: Dom Bess… but is that the worst five-for of all-time? Shocking cricket from Sri Lanka.