England build solid advantage after bowlers improve
England 486 and 149 for 2 (Cook 61*, Pietersen 15*) lead Sri Lanka 479 (Dilshan 193, Paranavitana 65, Finn 4-108) by 156 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Once again the fourth day of a Test ended with the likeliest result being a draw, but after events in Cardiff last week that can't be taken for granted as England closed with a lead of 156 at Lord's. They gained a narrow first-innings advantage by bowling Sri Lanka out for 479, in a steadily improving display, then recovered from the early loss of Andrew Strauss for a duck with Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott added 117 for the second wicket.
After half of the third day was lost to the weather more overs disappeared on a damp morning, but the Test progressed at a decent pace with the bowlers finally having a say for the first time since the opening exchanges. Sri Lanka lost their last seven wickets for 85 and their game plan had to change from putting pressure on England with a big lead to trying to give themselves a chance of a final-day run chase. However, while Strauss watched his bowlers rip out the visitors in 24 overs in Cardiff he won't be putting too much on the line here by dangling the carrot.
For a moment, though, Sri Lanka were buoyant when they removed Strauss second ball. In overcast conditions Chanaka Welegedara, the left-arm seamer who claimed Strauss lbw in the first innings, swung the first ball past the outside edge before the second was a touch fuller and squared up the batsman to take the back pad. Strauss opted to review the decision, but he was stone dead, completing a poor match with the bat, and it was the 22nd time he'd fallen to a left-arm paceman.
Yet nothing knocked Cook and Trott out of their comfort zone as they set about compiling another century partnership. This time Trott was the aggressor, picking off plenty of runs through the leg side and also driving sweetly, during a fifty that took 66 balls. The only time he looked slightly uncomfortable was when Dilhara Fernando went for a short-pitched approach and struck him on the glove. However, it came as almost a shock to see him play over a full delivery from Rangana Herath that took leg stump.
That brought in Kevin Pietersen to face the left-arm spinner and his first two defensive shots were cheered by a small crowd. He wasn't entirely convincing, although a thumping straight drive provided a moment of release, as he survived until the close on 15 off 44 deliveries. Even for a player of Pietersen's calibre, the small steps are important. Cook, meanwhile, has far fewer concerns and ticked over to fifty from 86 balls and will have his sights set on atoning for his missed ton in the first innings.
In the field it was an improved performance from England's bowlers, but they were still not at their best with plenty of leg-side deliveries giving Matt Prior a huge amount of work and many of the 25 byes weren't the keeper's fault. When Sri Lanka were 407 for 6 the home side will have a sensed a more significant lead, but a counter-attacking stand of 57 between Herath and Prasanna Jayawardene ensured the visitors got close before the last four wickets fell for 13.
The start was delayed until 1.10pm after morning rain and Sri Lanka resumed with the intention of batting for most of the day, but that became unlikely when Mahela Jayawardene edged to third slip off Steven Finn for 49. Then, like the London buses that fill the roads around Lord's, England had another wicket almost straight away. Thilan Samaraweera played a horrid flat-footed drive at Chris Tremlett to give Prior a low catch with the bowlers benefiting from finding a fuller length.
Farveez Maharoof didn't last long when he was beaten for pace by Stuart Broad to give him his only wicket of the innings. Sri Lanka, though, played the right way by taking the attack back to England and kept the game moving forward. Prasanna swept Graeme Swann over midwicket for six and Herath swung himself off his feet repeating the dose.
Herath finally went for one big hit too many, charging down at Swann and being stumped, and when Prasanna edged a good one from Finn to slip there wasn't much left in Sri Lanka's batting. For Finn it was a landmark wicket, his 50th in Tests, overtaking Ian Botham as the youngest Englishman to reach the milestone. Despite problems with consistency, no one can argue his wicket-taking abilities.
Finn bombarded Sri Lanka's tailenders with a series of bouncers - striking Suranga Lakmal flush on the helmet - but it was Swann who wrapped up the innings and Strauss held a superb reflex catch at slip to remove Fernando. The final day will give us an idea of how attacking England are willing to be in the quest for world No. 1 unless Sri Lanka's bowlers can pull off a surprise.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo