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December 21, 2007
The forecast for the final day is not too encouraging so the series is threatening to fizzle towards a damp end. At least Cook's unbeaten 53 has begun to restore England's pride, but if the weather relents and a sustained period of play is possible on Saturday they still face an uphill battle with a mammoth 316 runs between the sides.
There was slightly less venom from Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga with the new ball than their destructive burst on Thursday. Cook benefited from a couple of edges that fell short of the slips and his tendency to play away from his body kept the quick bowlers interested. Boundaries flowed as the openers soon managed to perform better than the first six wickets in the first innings.
Welegedera has impressed on his debut with a languid action and good control of line. He troubled Vaughan with swing, nearly bringing a repeat of the first-innings dismissal when Vaughan left a ball which bounced over the top of middle stump. While that leave was too close for comfort, the drive which brought his downfall was far too wide to be chasing given England's dire situation. The edge flew quickly to second slip, but Mahela Jayawardene swallowed it with ease moving to his left.
Muttiah Muralitharan was made to wait while Tillakaratne Dilshan was thrown the ball first for a few exploratory of his offspin. One delivery spun square past Cook's edge to bring startled looks from the batsman and grins from the fielders. Muralitharan eventually settled into his first major spell of the match and was played with relative comfort as Cook and Ian Bell took England past their shameful 81. Cook reached his third half century of the series off 103 balls and Bell eased into his innings with a classy punch off the back foot against Vaas.
Dark clouds began to mass behind the pavilion and the two batsmen were clearly keeping an eye on the weather. Sri Lanka were not impressed by their time wasting, but steady drizzle forced the umpires to call for the covers. Briefly it looked as though the rain would pass, but then torrential downpours soaked the ground. Sri Lanka have played so dominantly that they deserve the chance to wrap up the series in style, but even another day of rain won't kid anyone over who has ruled the roost during the past three weeks.
Also, most brothers in a Test XI, and the fastest to 20 ODI centuries