Matthew Fisher claimed a career best 5-34 as the England Lions dominated the start of their four-day Test with Sri Lanka A in Galle earlier today, the Yorkshire quick describing it as: “Just about the perfect day’s cricket.”
The Lions, a side also including former Yorkshire Championship-winner Alex Lees, ended day one on 249-3 after bowling Sri Lanka A out for just 136.
Fisher trapped opener Nishan Madushanka lbw with his first ball at the start of the fixture’s second over after the hosts had elected to bat.
He then returned to take the last four wickets, including three caught behind by Surrey’s Jamie Smith.
In reply, the top three Lions batters – Lees (56), captain Haseeb Hameed (81) and Tom Haines 62 not out – all scored half-centuries in what has now become a typically aggressive English batting response.
After labelling the day as near perfect, Fisher went on: “We lost the toss and they chose to bat. Whenever that happens, it’s usually a good wicket.
“It was a little bit tacky with the new ball, but we made good use of it and put them under pressure.
“We kept catchers in and kept the pressure on. We were constantly building pressure with the spinners as well, and were able to take wickets at key intervals.”
Nottinghamshire left-arm spinner Liam Patterson-White supplemented Fisher’s excellent 9.4 overs with 3-51 from 13.
“I have bowled better,” said Fisher. “But there was not much in the wicket.
“It seamed a little early on, but what I was really pleased with was how direct my bouncers were in and around shoulder and head height.
“My accuracy with my bouncer was definitely the biggest thing to enable me to take wickets today.
“It’s nice to be back out on the grass and trying to win games.
“I love the long-form game. It’s fascinating to try and figure out ways to get batters out.
“We’re using a lot of different tricks than you normally would in England. I have been going to the short ball a lot quicker, which is something they haven’t seemed to play as well as they do the spin.”
Today was Fisher’s third five-wicket haul in first-class cricket, adding to 5-54 and 5-41 in LV= Insurance County Championship matches against Warwickshire in 2017 and Somerset in 2021.
The one-time England Test fast bowler has recovered from the back stress fracture which wrecked last summer, with this trip his second of the winter having been on a pre-Christmas training camp to the UAE with the Lions.
“This is my first trip here (Sri Lanka), and I am enjoying it,” he said.
“I’ve never played in heat like it. It is 30 degrees, which you’d get in other parts of the world. But it’s the humidity. Your whole top and bottoms are full of water, you just want to get off and have a shower. Thankfully, today, we didn’t have too long in it and we were back in the air-con.”
Fisher bowled only 9.4 first-innings overs in a warm-up defeat against an SL Cricket Board XI over the weekend, did not bat in either innings and did not bowl again in the second innings.
“I had a bit of cramp in the warm-up, which is why I didn’t bowl on that third day,” he explained. “It was just a precaution. Two days out from the game, I bowled a couple of spells, which I was able to do and I feel fine.”
New England bowling coach Neil Killeen, the ex-Durham seamer and coach, is with the squad in Sri Lanka, and Fisher added: I have worked with him before, so to have him around the team has been seamless for me.
“He is just brilliant, he takes the pressure off and has been really good.”
This is the first of two four-day Test Matches on a tour which runs through to February 21. The Lions also play three ODIs. Fisher is in the squads for both series.