Under-pressure opening batsman Alex Hales was England's star man on the opening day of the first Investec Test match against Sri Lanka, scoring 71 not out as the hosts reached 171/5 by the close. The tall right-hander played a patient knock while England suffered a dramatic collapse either side of lunch to be reduced to 83/5 under grey skies at Headingley.
But Hales united with local hero Jonny Bairstow to take England to parity by the time the rain clouds closed in to wipe out the evening session. Indeed, Bairstow was by far the most fluent batsman on show after Sri Lanka's captain Angelo Matthews won the toss and opted to bowl first in helpful conditions.
Earlier in the day, England captain Alastair Cook was caught behind for 16 off the bowling of debutant seamer Dasun Shanaka, who also claimed the wickets of Nick Compton and Joe Root without either of them registering a run.
England's debutant batsman James Vince fell for just nine, edging the ball into the slip corden off the bowling of Shaminda Eranga, while Ben Stokes produced a series of dazzling strokes before tamely clipping the ball to mid-on for 12 off Nuwan Pradeep.
Thereafter, Hales and Bairstow took command of the second half of the day, with the opener curbing his naturally attacking instincts to reach a patient half-century from 112 balls. Bairstow, on the other hand, showed an aggressive attitude from the outset, repeatedly finding the boundary with a series of well-timed strokes.
Bairstow – who has been in outstanding form for Yorkshire this season – recorded a 60-ball half-century and will be hopeful of realising his long-held ambition of scoring a Test match hundred on his home ground when play resumes on Friday morning.