Former England captains Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and Michael Vaughan led the outrage after Sri Lanka capitulated in disgraceful fashion on day one of the First Test in Galle.
The hosts were rolled for 135 as spinner Dom Bess took five wickets despite admitting he hadn’t bowled very well.
Almost every batsman fell to an innocuous delivery, including being caught off long hops and while attempting reverse sweeps.
“I think abysmal is being kind – it was absolutely ridiculous,” Hussain said. ”You think of some of the greats Sri Lanka have had – what must they be thinking looking at a batting performance like that? It was farcical.
“I’d love to know how many of those Sri Lankan batsmen walked into the dressing room and thought ‘I got out to a decent delivery’, it was none of them. It was a joke by the end.
“There were people diving in, people reverse-sweeping – that was the most farcical 46 overs of Test cricket I have seen in my life and if Sri Lanka lose this game it‘s because of how abysmal they have been.”
Atherton described it as “some of the worst Test match batting I have ever seen”.
“It’s great for Dom Bess that he’s got a five-for but he’s never going to get a cheaper one than that because he really didn’t bowl all that well,” Atherton said.
Vaughan was similarly dismayed, tweeting: “Those 46.1 overs have been the worst possible advertisement for Test Cricket … it’s supposed to be the pinnacle … that was utter garbage Sri Lanka.”
Bess, who returned figures of 5/30, combined with paceman Stuart Broad, who took three wickets, as Sri Lanka were all out in two sessions as the two-Test series resumed in Galle after the original tour was aborted over the coronavirus in March.
But the off-spinner admitted he got away with a few easy strikes. “I probably haven’t bowled as well as I could have done, and probably got away with one or two, but that’s cricket,” Bess told reporters after the day’s play.
The England team couldn’t believe its luck. Picture: Sri Lanka CricketSource:Supplied
“Flip it and look how well Broady and Sammy (Sam Curran) bowled at the top. It was exceptional and certainly set the tone early on.”
Bess got wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella caught out at point on a long hop after the batsman played a sloppy shot and the off-spinner said it “isn’t my best wicket”.
Dasun Shanaka’s wicket was also lucky after his shot caught Jonny Bairstow’s boot at short leg and lobbed off for an easy catch to gloveman Jos Buttler.
England lost their openers early but skipper Joe Root, on 66, and Bairstow, on 47, steered the tourists to 127 for two at close of play. They still trail Sri Lanka by eight runs.
The batting duo put on an unbeaten partnership of 110 after Dom Sibley, for four, and Zak Crawley, for nine, fell to Lasith Embuldeniya’s left-arm spin.
Root, who successfully reviewed an lbw call in his favour after being given out by the on-field umpire on 20, reached his 50th fifty in 98 Tests. He has 17 centuries.
Bess remained the hero of the day with his second five-wicket haul in his 11th Test as the venue witnessed its lowest first-innings score, well below Sri Lanka’s 181 against Pakistan in 2000.
Sri Lanka suffered a pre-match jolt when skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was ruled out of the first of the two Tests with a fractured thumb.
Stand-in-captain Dinesh Chandimal scored 28 and put up some resistance in a 56-run stand with Angelo Mathews, who made 27 on his return from a hamstring injury.
Broad struck twice in an over to send back opener Lahiru Thirimanne, who had scored four, and Kusal Mendis for nought – his fourth straight duck – to spell early trouble for the hosts.
Spin was introduced in the 11th over and Bess, with his second ball, got Kusal Perera for 20 when the batsman top-edged a reverse sweep to England captain Joe Root at first slip.
Sri Lanka had slumped to 25 for three but Mathews and Chandimal stood firm till lunch.
Broad came back in the second session to break the stand as he got Mathews caught at slip and Chandimal, who survived a dropped catch by debutant Dan Lawrence before lunch on 22, departed two balls later off Jack Leach.
Mathews, whose hamstring injury kept him out of the 2-0 Test series defeat in South Africa, went past 6,000 Test runs during his knock before Bess soon ran through the middle and lower order.
“I have been with the team for a year and that’s the worst batting I have seen from the team,” Sri Lanka batting coach Grant Flower said. “It’s purely mental I think, I don’t see another other reason to explain that.”
– with AFP
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