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June 19, 2011
Sri Lanka 184 and 112 for 3 (Sangakkara 44*, Herath 2*) trail England 377 for 8 dec (Bell 119*, Pietersen 85, Morgan 71, Cook 55) by 81 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sri Lanka's top order made England work hard for their successes but the home side will be confident of securing a 2-0 series win if the rain stays away for long enough. England, led by Ian Bell's sublime 119, showed positive intent throughout the first full day's play of the match as Andrew Strauss declared 193 ahead with the aim of a victory push and Sri Lanka finished on 112 for 3, still 81 runs behind.
With memories of what happened in Cardiff, and a lively pitch offering encouragement for the quicks, England will have fancied their chances of significant inroads and even a dart at a four-day finish. However, Sri Lanka's batsmen didn't roll over and showed real guts - especially debutant Lahiru Thirimanne - after an insipid performance in the field. However, the late dismissal of Mahela Jayawardene to Stuart Broad left huge pressure on Kumar Sangakkara who ended unbeaten on 44 alongside nightwatchman Rangana Herath.
Chris Tremlett was again the stand-out England quick. He was hostile with the new ball and produced some vicious lifters in his opening eight-over spell. A glove down the leg side from Tharanga Paranavitana just eluded the diving Matt Prior and Aleem Dar then made an excellent decision when the ball clipped the batsman's sleeve. Early in the final session Thirimanne fended a delivery off the face of the bat to short leg but Bell couldn't cling on.
James Anderson provided the breakthrough when Paranavitana edged low to second slip where Graeme Swann held a sharp chance but there was no cluster of wickets for England. Thirimanne, on his debut, showed terrific resilience as he took a blow on the thumb but withstood the challenge.
Broad had been denied the new ball and responded with a rapid spell which tested both batsmen. But it was the return of Tremlett that gave England a boost when he completed a fine over to Thirimanne by finding the edge which carried perfectly to first slip. However, Thirimanne's 112-ball stay marked him out as a talent worth persisting with in Test cricket.
Sangakkara, meanwhile, has perhaps this one innings to partially correct his poor record in England. His duel with Swann was particularly compelling as the offspinner almost beat him in the flight twice but Sangakkara managed to withstand the variations with his most focused performance of the series. Jayawardene couldn't stay with him to the close after being given a working over by Tremlett, although it was Broad who gained the scalp when Jayawardene was squared up and edged to the keeper. Broad celebrated with a mixture of relief and elation after a lean series and on such moments can a season be transformed.
Unlike Broad, Bell has no concerns over his form and produced the the most fluent batting of the day. He barely put a foot wrong during his innings as he reached three figures off 159 balls and the century took his average for 2011 over 300 after his previous tons at Sydney and Cardiff. The late cut to third man was one of his favourite strokes while his cover-driving continued to be eye catching. The closest he came to a scare was when an outside edge fell short of gully, but he is now a complete Test player and can comfortably compete with Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott for the tag of the team's leading batsman.
A positive tone had been set to England's day by Anderson's spritely 27 as nightwatchman. He had just slotted Chanaka Welegedara for consecutive fours when the bowler dragged his length back to find the edge. Morgan took time to play himself in against some fairly gentle bowling but collected his first boundary with a strong square cut then drilled a superb straight drive off Thisara Perera. After lunch Bell and Morgan pressed the accelerator with some strokeplay that wouldn't be out of place in the one-day series next week as their partnership reached 137.
Morgan's second fifty of the series came from 88 balls then he started to give himself a touch of room to pierce the off side as England hunted quick runs. He was given lbw on 58 against Suranga Lakmal but the DRS showed the ball pitched a fraction outside leg and he added 13 more until edging a booming drive off the same bowler.
After Strauss had received some criticism last week for a delayed declaration at Lord's this was a far more positive decision with an eye firmly fixed on Monday's forecast. However, in a match where so much time has been lost to rain it could yet be the weather that has the final say.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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