Dilshan hundred leads Sri Lanka's fightback
Sri Lankans 266 and 392 for 6 (Samaraweera 54*, Randiv 19*) lead England Lions 493 for 8 by 165 runs
After two tough days against England Lions, the Sri Lankans put up a better fight having been asked to follow on but still face the prospect of defeat ahead of the first Test. Tillakaratne Dilshan led a much more convincing display with a brisk 117 in an opening stand of 200 with Tharanga Paranavitana who built a composed 125. However, the Lions chipped away and by the close had six wickets for their hard work with the tourists 165 ahead.
Although a defeat wouldn't be ideal, it is always important for a visiting team to have an in-form captain and Dilshan will be one of the most confident Sri Lanka batsmen. This innings followed his 123 against Middlesex, at Uxbridge, and he was above a run-a-ball for the majority of his stay. England's bowlers will have to be on the spot straight away with the new ball otherwise an innings can get a head start with Dilshan's attacking play.
He was given a life on 95 when Samit Patel spilled a chance moving to his right at gully, the second catch he has spilled in the game, and in the next over Dilshan went to his hundred from 92 balls with a sparkling cover drive which he repeated next ball.
He was eventually removed by Steven Finn, who bowled a superb eight-over spell during the afternoon session having been loose in the morning, with a delivery that climbed and brushed the glove. Dilshan doesn't have a particular weakness against the short ball, but can expect to be bombarded in the Test series. He showed today, however, that although that line of attack may eventually work, it can be a very expensive tactic.
Dilshan's innings included a top-edged six that eluded fine leg, but enough balls flew to the boundary to show he wasn't afraid of taking on bouncers. He also rarely played a shot with half measures so when edges flew over or between the slips they were travelling far too quickly for the fielders .
On a bright and breezy morning there wasn't as much help for the quick bowlers as there was on the cloudy second evening. Graham Onions beat the bat during his opening spell and Jade Dernbach, who impressed with 5 for 44 yesterday, almost made the breakthrough when Paranavitana drove short of point on 21. Later in the session Paranavitana slashed through the slips, again off Dernbach, but it was much harder work for the bowlers.
It was an important performance from the opening pair, who put on 59 in the first innings before a collapse set in. Paranavitana is the more understated of the openers but a resolute character, who began his Test career with a first-ball duck and now averages 37.
He is the perfect foil for the dashing Dilshan and the left-right combination means bowlers are always adjusting. He didn't offer a chance although became a touch nervous as the hundred approached and was almost run out on 99 before reaching three figures with a cut off Patel.
The Lions bowlers had to work hard for their success but slowly they began to arrive during the afternoon. Finn claimed a deserved second scalp when Kumar Sangakkara edged into leg stump for 17 meaning he's had precious little time in the middle ahead of the first Test. Mahela Jayawardene looked in fine touch during his 26 but recieved a good ball from Ajmal Shahzad that beat his defence. Stuart Law, the Sri Lanka coach, has said he has no concerns over his experienced pair going into the Test series.
Paranavitana's five-hour stay came to a slightly limp end when he tamely drove to point off Bopara which left the Sri Lankans four down and less than a hundred ahead. Bopara's bowling is one of the factors likely to sway Test selection in his favour so an extended run won't have done him any harm.
Dernbach struck his first blow of the innings when Dinesh Chandimal edged to first slip and James Hildreth held his second catch to remove Prasanna Jayawardene as Onions got one to nip away. Thilan Samaraweera proved a tough obstacle having been missed on 6 when Jonny Bairstow couldn't complete a stumping and reached fifty from 87 balls. Suraj Randiv, who made 76 in the first innings, flicked a tough chance to Dernbach at leg slip on 14 and the pair took their stand to 42. It could yet be an intriguing final day.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo