England’s decimation of Sri Lanka’s top order was based on accuracy and the application of pressure. James Anderson and Stuart Broad utilised similar conditions to those faced by Sri Lanka’s opening bowlers, but they gained reward for making batsmen play more regularly.
In the opening 10 overs of England’s innings, Alex Hales and Alastair Cook were able to leave 33 balls alone. Sri Lanka’s top order played no shot at 18 deliveries in the equivalent period on day two.
The result of such accuracy was indecision outside off stump. The five Sri Lankans who batted in the opening 10 overs played and missed eight times between them, edging nine deliveries. England’s openers played five false shots (play and misses and edges combined).
Anderson and Broad’s expertise in English conditions was apparent, with the latter particularly threatening in his two-wicket burst. Every single delivery in his opening five overs were either in line with or outside of off stump. In comparison, 10 of Shaminda Eranga’s opening 30 balls were on leg stump or wider.
Whilst they bowled slightly shorter as a pair on average, Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep actually extracted slightly more lateral movement than England’s experienced opening combination.
Dusan Shanaka went on to prove that enough seam and swing can be useful at a lower pace, but a lack of speed against watchful openers was problematic for Eranga – his average speed in his first five overs was 7 mph lower than Broad’s.