Hales, Bairstow lead England recovery as Shanaka stars on debut


Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow helped England limit the damage of a brilliant debut from Dasun Shanaka before rain brought a premature halt to play on day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka were devoid of seamer Dhammika Prasad with a shoulder injury that could rule him out of the three-match series, but Shanaka (3-30) stepped up with an inspired spell at an overcast Headingley.

The 24-year-old snared the key wicket of captain Alastair Cook (16), who fell 20 runs short of reaching a landmark 10,000 Test runs, before quickly claiming Nick Compton and Joe Root, both for a duck.

England found themselves in a tough spot that was largely of their own making at 83-5, but Hales and Bairstow launched a recovery.

Hales, whose place had been under threat after struggling for consistency in the series win in South Africa, was measured in his approach en route to a Test-best 71 not out, while Bairstow (54no) went on the attack at his Headingley home.

By the time the rain arrived to end proceedings the duo had put on 88 to leave England on 171-5, with Sri Lanka - who wore black armbands in tribute to those killed landslides in Kegalle - perhaps disappointed not to have taken more wickets.

Hales survived a couple of early scares and upped the tempo with a sublime backfoot drive off Angelo Mathews through the covers and whacked the same bowler to the ropes twice more as England were largely untroubled in the first hour.

Sri Lanka captain Mathews had spoken pre-match about targeting England's top six, though, and the momentum swung in their favour as Shanaka took three wickets for one run in eight balls.

A poor drive from Cook saw him edge behind, before Compton nicked one to first slip.

Root, so often England's saviour, also went for a duck as a loose drive was pouched by Kusal Mendis in the gully, meaning he has scored just one run in his past three Headingley Test innings.

After lunch, debutant James Vince played a couple of delightful fours - including one punched down the ground - before edging Shaminda Eranga (1-34) to Mendis at slip.

Ben Stokes (12) came out with typical gusto and hit three boundaries in four deliveries, before completely mistiming a drive off Nuwan Pradeep (1-26) to Mathews at mid-on.

But while others around him lost their heads, Hales batted with calm and poise and built his innings slowly.

A well-deserved half-century arrived from his 112th delivery with a drive off the back foot for four.

Bairstow was soon into his groove, displaying his range with a neat tickle down to fine leg before drilling Shanaka for four.

He then overturned an lbw decision off Mathews with replays showing the ball was missing leg stump, while a Sri Lanka review for lbw against the same batsman also proved fruitless.

Bairstow made the most of the reprieve with a skimmer off Rangana Herath that just cleared the ropes for six, and he passed the fifty mark with a slap through the gully.

Hales and Bairstow made it to tea, but an intriguing day's cricket was brought to a premature end as the heavens opened and refused to relent.