Flintoff drives England but Sri Lanka keep fighting
Each time England have been on the verge of running away with this series, the fighting spirit of the Sri Lankans has shone through. However, their late fightbacks will leave them even more frustrated at the continued inability of the top order to produce the goods in the first innings. They had even progressed to relative riches of 84 for 1 shortly before lunch but Flintoff inspired the England attack to demolish the next seven wickets for 55 runs.
Sri Lanka's highest opening stand this series is 10 and their latest effort was similarly feeble as Lewis - handed his long-awaited debut in place of Sajid Mahmood - struck with the third ball of his Test career to castle Michael Vandort. Lewis came within a whisker of claiming two in two as replays showed Kumar Sangakkara may have tickled his first ball down the legside, but slowly he and Upul Tharanga began to prosper.
Sangakkara has looked in excellent form throughout the series, without converting starts, and was quickly into his stride with some handsome cover drives, while when Tharanga's early nerves had gone he, too, expressed himself through the offside. However, just as they were preparing to fill their boots under the Nottingham sunshine, Flintoff burst onto the scene.
During the first two Tests it was felt that Flintoff had bowled within himself, but here he found his top gear and regularly hit 90mph. With Matthew Hoggard slightly off colour - the whole England attack struggled with no-balls, sending down 20 - Flintoff took on the role of leading striker; a position from which he often performs his best.
Sri Lanka, though, will feel aggrieved at Sangakkara's dismissal as Darrell Hair gave him out despite the ball taking nothing but the back leg on the way to Geraint Jones. With the flourishing stand of 82 broken, England scented an opening and barged through it taking two more before lunch.
Jayasuriya came in at No. 6 to shore up the middle order, but his lack of match practice showed. He hasn't played since injuring his thumb in the second Test against Pakistan in March and the middle of the bat proved elusive. It was no surprise when he popped a catch to gully. Farveez Maharoof and Chamara Kapugedera offered England's improving slip cordon further practice, with Andrew Strauss's grab, low to his left, the pick of the bunch.
The odds were that England would be at the crease before tea, but Sri Lanka's tail has proved much harder to shift than their top-order colleagues. Lasith Malinga flayed useful runs in a stand of 30, but the real entertainment came when Vaas and Muralitharan joined forces. The pair used contrasting methods; Vaas mainly textbook in defence and attack, Muralitharan anything but as he launched some extraordinary shots. At one point he played a pull while ending up in a heap at the crease then he put Lewis into the stands and also dispatched Flintoff to the ropes. Liam Plunkett eventually ended the 62-run frolic but England had lost their earlier bounce.
Invariably a productive last-wicket stand gives that team an early boost when they field, and it proved so here as Vaas and Malinga produced Sri Lanka's most impressive early burst of the series. Malinga pinged Marcus Trescothick on the helmet and also had him dropped at deep square-leg, on 15, by Maharoof. It was Vaas who was rewarded with the first incision when a peach of a delivery cleaned up Andrew Strauss.
Trescothick couldn't make the most of his earlier reprieve when he misjudged Malinga's rapid return from long leg and was caught millimetres short of the crease. Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen negotiated the final moments and after Muralitharan's fun with the bat it will be his battle with the England middle order that will be key.
Andrew Strauss b Vaas 7 (25 for 1)
Ball nipped back between bat and pad, took offstump
Marcus Trescothick run out - Malinga (39 for 2)
Went for a second to long-leg, out by a fraction
Michael Vandort b Lewis 1 (2 for 1)
Driving with large gap between bat and pad
Kumar Sangakkara c Jones b Flintoff 36 (82 for 2)
Ball beat outside edge and clipped back thigh
Upul Tharanga c Jones b Hoggard 34 (85 for 3)
Loose drive, thin edge
Mahela Jayawardene c Jones b Flintoff 0 (86 for 4)
Quick ball, held its line, decent edge
Tillakaratne Dilshan c Flintoff b Lewis 8 (97 for 5)
Driving away from his body, low catch to the right of second slip
Sanath Jayasuriya c Pietersen b Flintoff 4 (105 for 6)
Limp prob to gully
Farveez Maharoof c Flintoff b Hoggard 13 (129 for 7)
Squared-up, regulation edge to second slip
Chamara Kapugedera c Strauss b Plunkett 14 (139 for 8)
Sharp low catch, diving to right at third slip
Lasith Malinga c Pietersen b Lewis 21 (169 for 9)
Spooned to backward square-leg
Muttiah Muralitharan c Flintoff b Plunkett 33 (231 all out)
Slogged to mid-on
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo