Cricket

England take strides towards victory with dominant second hour


Sri Lanka 203 and 98 for 3 (Mendis 21*) need a further 364 runs to beat England 342 and 322 for 6 dec (Jennings 146*, Stokes 62)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Some loose batting from Sri Lanka helped England take a large step towards victory in Galle.

Sri Lanka had resisted admirably for the first hour but, three balls after the first drinks break of the day, Kaushal Silva attempted to sweep a straight ball from Jack Leach and was adjudged leg before. To compound the error, Silva squandered a review in his attempt to have the decision overturned.

A few minutes later Dimuth Karunaratne, one of the few men in this side with the temperament to bat for several sessions, skipped down the pitch and drilled a return catch to Moeen Ali. Karunaratne’s intention, no doubt, was to push back the mid-on and mid-off fielders and, perhaps, put Moeen off his length. But with Sri Lanka chasing a notional target of 464 – or, more realistically, batting as long as they can in the hope that rain comes to their rescue – it appeared an oddly aggressive stroke.

Perhaps Moeen had earned the batsman’s lack of composure. He had almost dismissed Karunaratne with his second delivery of the day – a nicely flighted off-break that demanded a stroke but then turned away to take the outside edge – only to see Ben Stokes, at slip, put down a chance he would expect to take every time. Stokes was, perhaps, distracted by wicketkeeper, Ben Foakes, making a move for the ball.

Worse was to follow for Sri Lanka. Stokes was introduced into the attack for an exploratory over before lunch but, the ball after Dhananjaya de Silva had overturned the decision to give him out caught behind – de Silva was drawn into a reckless drive well wide of off stump but replays showed he had not edged the ball – the batsman prodded at a much better delivery that bounced and left him. Joe Root, at first slip, held the low chance to leave Sri Lanka three down at the interval.

The frustration for Sri Lanka will be that England hadn’t actually bowled especially well. A nervous-looking Leach struggled with his length, while Kusal Mendis pulled Adil Rashid for three boundaries as the bowler delivered him a succession of long-hops. Root, bowling a mixture of off-breaks and leg-breaks, replaced Rashid in the attack before lunch.

England had opened the bowling with their seamers, James Anderson and Sam Curran. But while Curran beat the outside edge of Karunaratne and Anderson had the same man edging just in front of the slip cordon – as a result, a helmeted Rory Burns started to field at short-third slip – spin was introduced for the 10th over of the day.

Earlier play began on time despite torrential overnight rain. England had arrived slightly late at the ground in the expectation that play would be delayed but, so well was the playing surface covered, that no time was lost. Perhaps Sri Lanka could count themselves unfortunate. Hardly a day on England’s tour has been unaffected by rain ahead of this match but, despite it raining from around 6pm to 6am, not an over in this game has yet been lost.



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