Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day December 5, 2003

Jayawardene gives Sri Lanka the ascendancy

Close England 235 and 4 for 0 require another 319 runs to beat Sri Lanka 331 and 226 (Jayawardene 86*)

Mahela Jayawardene: back to form with a gutsy 86 not out
© Getty Images 2003

Mahela Jayawardene guided Sri Lanka into a dominant position on the rain-affected fourth day at Galle with a patient 86 not out, including a last-wicket stand of 46 with Muttiah Muralitharan. England were set 323 to win, and with Murali all ready to flex his rubbery wrist on a wearing pitch, the rain which brought an early finish was a welcome sight for England - but a frustrating one for Sri Lanka.

After a heartening final session last night, the onus was on England to take quick wickets in the morning and limit the lead to manageable proportions. But that didn't happen. Their first breakthrough eventually came after the morning drinks break, and even that was in controversial circumstances.

Chaminda Vaas, who had batted with typical resolve for his 19, was caught at short-leg by Paul Collingwood to give Ashley Giles his seventh wicket of the match. There was some doubt, however, as to whether Vaas had actually touched the ball, as it ballooned off his pads into Collingwood's hands. And though umpire Venkat had no hesitation, Vaas's reaction spoke volumes as he stalked off the pitch. He flung his gloves and helmet to one side as he reached the boundary rope, much as Sanath Jayasuriya had done in similar circumstances at Kandy in 2000-01.

For most of the morning, England laboured for little reward, as Vaas and Jayawardene fended off the best efforts of Andrew Flintoff and the spinners, Giles and Gareth Batty. With a lead of 195 in the bag already, there was no need for risks, and the batsmen limited themselves to singles and the odd extravagance, such as the lofted four that Vaas smacked back over Batty's head.

It was slow going, and even after a two-hour rain break, Sri Lanka continued to show little urgency and crawled along at two runs-an-over. Chandana soon paid the price for his negativity when he padded up to a straight one from Giles, and was given lbw by Venkat (163 for 7). Jayawardene then eventually reached his half-century off 192 balls - and just under four hours - but still they were in no hurry to extend the lead, which was trickling towards 300.

Matthew Hoggard took the new ball and immediately grabbed his first wicket of the match - and the tour - when he trapped Kumar Dharmasena lbw stone dead in front of middle (179 for 8). Flintoff was then rewarded for his tireless efforts when Dinusha Fernando edged him to Marcus Trescothick, who again showed off his party trick of juggling the ball a few times before clasping it (180 for 9).

Lucky break: Ashley Giles celebrates the wicket of Chaminda Vaas
© Getty Images 2003

But whether it be with bat or ball, Murali always livens things up, and today was no exception. He strode out with his ever-present grin, and then smeared Flintoff over cover and slashed Hoggard past point, both for four. Jayawardene suddenly came to life as well. He thumped Johnson for two successive boundaries over midwicket to take the lead past 300, and smacked Giles back over his head for another four.

Again the bowlers could not finish off the job quickly. For a No. 11, Murali was surprisingly comfortable, and his partnership with Jayawardene sapped England's morale even further. After Murali eventually edged Batty to Collingwood at short leg for a handy 13, England were left pondering their almost impossible bid to save this game.

If only rain can rescue England now, then it came to their aid after just one over in to their second innings. Trescothick and Michael Vaughan walked out in spitting rain, and then hurried off five minutes later as the downpour started. Play was inevitably called off at 5.30pm local time, and England will need more bad weather tomorrow if they are going to escape with a draw.