England had to fight of a late Sri Lankan fightback to take the opening test of the series by seven wickets in Galle.
Requiring just 74 runs for victory, England slumped to 38-3 before Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence saw England home.
No Stokes, Pope or Moeen for England
England went into the two match test series without Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope and Moeen Ali. England played two spinners in the shape of Dom Bess and Jack Leach. On the opening morning the hosts won the toss and elected to bat.
Sri Lanka lost both openers Lahiru Thirimanne(4) and Kusal Mendis(0) to Stuart Broad. Mendis’s poor form continued after registering four test ducks in a row. England turned to spin and with Bess’s second delivery he had Kusal Perrrera(20) caught by Joe Root at slip to leave Sri Lanka 25-3.
Sri Lanka gift England wickets
A partnership of 56 between Angelo Mathews and Chandimal rescued the hosts before Broad returned to have Mathews(27) caught at slip.
Root turned to the spin twins of Bess and Leach to wrap up the innings. Both spinners obliged as Sri Lanka lost their last five wickets for 54 runs. The hosts would be very disappointed with their shot selections by gifting the spinners their wickets.
Bess completed his five for to finish with 5-30 and Broad 3-20 as the home side were bundled out for 135.
Fight back from Sri Lanka early doors
Sri Lanka fought back when spinner Lasith Embuldeniya removed both England openers Dom Sibley(4) and Zak Crawley(9). It was down to a spirited third wicket partnership of 110 between Root and Bairstow to rescue England.
Bairstow failed to add to his overnight score of 47 after losing his wicket to the third over of the second day. Root received outstanding support from Essex’s Dan Lawrence on his test debut. Lawrence looked very assured at the crease and went on to make 73 in a partnership of 173.
Root master class destroys the hosts
The England captain played a master class of an innings and showed just how to play spin. Root went on to his first century in over a year, eventually falling for 228 as England lost their last six wickets for 49 to be bowled out for 421. For the hosts Perera finished with 4-109 and Embuldeniya picking up 3-176.
Replying 286 runs behind, openers Perera and Thirimane put on a century stand for the first wicket before Perera(51) was caught in the deep off Sam Curran. Mendis made 15 before he edged behind of Leach to leave Sri Lanka 156-2 at the close of day three.
Century for Thirimanne
Sri Lanka continued to prosper on day four with Thirimanne reaching his century. He went on to make 111 before Bess struck twice to remove Dinesh Chandimal(20) and Dickwella(29). Leach then picked up the wicket of De Silva(12) to leave Sri Lanka 314-8.
A useful partnership of 38 between Mathews and Perera was broken when Perera(24) was stumped by Butler. The hosts were eventually bowled out for 359 with Mathews making 71. Leach picking up 5-122 for the visitors.
England set a tricky 74 for victory
Set a tricky 74 for victory on a pitch taking a lot of spin, England lost Sibley(2) offering no shot to Embuldeniya. Crawley(8) went soon after of Embuldeniya to leave England 12-2.
Worse was to come for the visitors when Root(1) was run out. Jonny Bairstow and Lawrence steadied the ship to leave England 38-3 at the close, 36 runs away from victory.
Tense final day at Galle
On the final day it was down to the pairing of Bairstow and Lawrence to see the visitors home without any further alarms. Inside 35 minutes the pair had steered England home to victory. Bairstow ended unbeaten on 35 with Lawrence 21 to give England a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
The second and final test will take place once again at Galle with the opening day starting on Friday.