Angelo Mathews led a Sri Lanka revival on day three of the second Investec Test in Durham to frustrate England and extend the match into a fourth day.
After quickly cleaning up the two remaining wickets for a 397-first innings lead, Alastair Cook enforced the follow-on only for the Sri Lanka to close on 309-5 with Dinesh Chandimal and Milinda Siriwardana unbeaten on 54 and 35 respectively.
Captain Mathews’ aggressive 80-run salvo was the highlight for the visitors, who restored some pride after low scores of 91, 119 and 101 in three innings so far.
James Anderson and Moeen Ali produced beautiful deliveries to take wickets but ultimately England toiled in the field for the first time in the series and must lift themselves to try and win the match without batting again tomorrow.
Sri Lanka resumed with a 407-run first-innings deficit and it did not take long for Stuart Broad and Anderson to clean up the tail. Broad dismissed Suranga Lakmal in the first over of the day as the number ten could only fend an edge through to Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps.
Lahiru Thirimanne was the pick of the batsman yesterday, obdurate in defence to make 12 from 66 balls at the close, and he hit Anderson back over his head for a one-bounce four in the bowler’s first over. England’s leading wicket taker was not best pleased and soon had his 446th Test victim as the same man skied another big shot for Nick Compton to safely pocket at point.
Sri Lanka were all out for 101 and with a first-innings lead of 397 Alastair Cook had no hesitation in making them bat again. It was 11:20am and England’s bowlers were revving up again.
Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva came out with newfound fortitude and absorbed 16 overs to see off England’s opening duo. Their partnership was worth 38 before first-change Chris Woakes, bowling with real zip and movement, drew an edge from Karunaratne for Joe Root to take a neat catch at slip.
Kusal Mendis was the pick of Sri Lanka’s batters in Leeds and looked confident in striking Anderson for three fours in five balls after lunch. However, the sixth ball of the over was an absolute beauty from the strike bowler, angling in and just moving away, as Mendis could only edge to Bairstow.
Diminutive Silva was looking impressive and was joined by Thirimanne, promoted up the order from number six. The duo brought up the 100 in the 30th over, mainly through the latter cutting and driving Ali through the offside. But Ali got his man for 13, getting one to gripping and turning to take away Thirimanne’s off stump.
Silva was playing with poise and moved on to a smart 50 – only their second of the series at that stage – by working Steven Finn off his pads for a boundary. Mathews, undoubtedly a class operator, survived back-to-back reviews and then got stuck into Ali in typically brutal style. Two fours and a six were dispatched over long off as the captain duly scored Sri Lanka’s third half century.
Finn was a bit out of sorts but after sending some short-pitched stuff at Silva managed to force him into a leading edge which Bairstow gratefully gobbled up. Mathews continued to play his shots until Anderson came back into the attack.
On 80 from 105 balls Mathews nibbled at yet another teasing line outside off stump and after Bairstow collected the simple chance Sri Lanka were 222-5. Chandimal and Siriwardana came together and played with freedom, putting on 87 together with some expansive shots.
The new ball was taken to no avail for the final four overs in the evening sunshine and Sri Lanka will start tomorrow needing 88 runs to make England bat again.
England return to play Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Saturday 2nd July, with match tickets priced from £35 and available here