Dom Bess was in a philosophical mood after his second five-wicket haul in Test cricket, reminding himself and others that the sport is one where more impressive performances with the ball can just as easily go unrewarded.
The 23-year-old’s five for 30 on day one in Galle owed much to factors beyond his control, with three slightly gifted wickets and one huge slice of fortune when a catch rebounded off Jonny Bairstow’s heel at short-leg and into Jos Buttler’s gloves.
But given a career that is still in its infancy, and a collective showing that saw Sri Lanka rolled for 135 in their one-time stronghold, the rather sheepish celebrations upon completing his haul should not be mistaken for diminished pride.
Bess said: “It’s a proud moment because I’ve taken five wickets for England and no one can take that away from me. I probably haven’t bowled as well as I could have, and I got away with one or two but that’s cricket. I’ve also bowled very well on days and haven’t taken any poles.”
He was also keen to highlight the return of his former Somerset teammate Jack Leach after a year-long absence from Test cricket that has in part be due to illness and his longstanding management of Crohn’s disease. Leach picked up just one wicket – the stand-in Sri Lanka captain, Dinesh Chandimal, caught at cover after lunch – but was the pick of the two spinners by way of rhythm, beating the bat a number of times amid his figures of 17 overs, one for 55.
Bess added: “It was really nice again to see Leachy back in the England shirt. It was my first Test with Jack today and I wanted to hug him when he picked his first wicket for a while. I know what he’s been through.”
Stuart Broad, who led the attack superbly with three wickets, added: “It was an absolute dream-world day for us, it’s a nine out of 10 day. You don’t get days much better than these … bowling a team out cheaply and getting close to them two down is fantastic.”
Sri Lanka were not spared any criticism for their performance, however, with the former batsman Kumar Sangakkara insisting on Sky that it was not a one-off but rather a “deep malaise” due to “a lack of quality of cricket at first-class level”.
When asked to sum up the performance, Grant Flower, the Sri Lanka batting coach and former Zimbabwe international, replied: “You ask me who should take the blame? Every single batter should take the blame.
“I’m at a loss for words. 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.”