Plays of the day December 19, 2007

Jayawardene's gains and Prior's losses



Mahela Jayawardene proved the single biggest threat to England's bid for a series-levelling victory © AFP

Batsman of the day
Unbeaten on 51 overnight, nobody doubted what he had in mind. Mahela Jayawardene was the single biggest threat to England's bid for a series-levelling victory, and he lay down in their path with the determination and immovability of a protesting monk. After spanking six boundaries in a relatively brisk start to his innings, he added just three more en route to his hundred - and two of those were involuntary. England batsmen haven't yet passed three figures once this series, Jayawardene's now done it in back-to-back innings. It's one of many reasons why Sri Lanka deserve the series win that is now very much in their grasp.

Agenda-setter of the day
It was a screamer, but such opportunities cannot afford to be squandered, especially in such oppressive environments at Galle. Ryan Sidebottom was bowling his fourth ball of the morning and Tillakaratne Dilshan had not added to his overnight seven when he slashed at a wide one and sent a flying edge into the gully. Alistair Cook leapt but without conviction and the moment - and the momentum - was lost. Ironically, their best gully fieldsman is Paul Collingwood, but England have such a paucity of specialist close catchers, he's been pressed into service at second slip instead. Which is where he dropped a sitter yesterday off Upul Tharanga.

Drop(s) of the day
All things considered, it was a desperate day in the field for England and poor Matt Prior was right in the thick of things. First he allowed a low chance from Jayawardene to slip unchallenged below his right mitt, and then, ten overs later, he launched himself in front of first slip and tipped an edge from Dilshan onto Ian Bell's ankles. That second spill was the fourth opportunity he's missed off Sidebottom in six Tests, and all of them have come when diving to his right ...

Non-catch of the day
It's a different story when Prior takes off to his left, however. He's been flawless in that direction all series with three excellent catches at Kandy and Colombo as well as this outstanding take. Dilshan gloved a lifter from Matthew Hoggard down the leg side and England went up in unison, but umpire Harper was unmoved. Not for the first time this series, replays showed he had made a bad misjudgement. The ball took a big deflection off the knuckles, and Prior - not for the first time either - was livid. He realised there and then he'd been robbed of his chance for tabloid redemption.

Misjudgment of the day
Dilshan had been out of the Test team since July but today he batted with such aggression and intent that a fifth Test century was his for the taking. In the end it wasn't to be, but at least he'll have earned some brownie points in the manner of his dismissal. With tea approaching, his captain Jayawardene was on 99 and looking edgy for the first time in the match. When he jabbed Ravi Bopara down into the crease, Dilshan hurtled down the wicket looking for the landmark single. Cook swooped at gully and, in England's only decent piece of fielding all day, broke the wicket with Dilshan's bat still crossing the line. The decision was so marginal and took such a long time to be given, that Dilshan left the field clutching a bottle of water - which can't happen very often.

Wicket of the day
Bopara's Test-bowling credentials haven't been adequately examined in his short career to date, but at least he's now up and running in the averages after a timely breakthrough on the stroke of tea. Three balls after Dilshan's demise, Prasanna Jayawardene - a pesky presence in the first two Tests - prodded at an off-stump delivery and this time Prior held on low to his right. It was a fillip for a side that had been drifting aimlessly all afternoon, but England soon reverted to type

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo