Sri Lanka v England, 3rd Test, Galle, 4th day December 21, 2007

Weather and Cook delay Sri Lanka

England 81 and 102 for 1 (Cook 53*, Bell 17*) trail Sri Lanka 499 for 8 dec by 316 runs
How they were out

The groundstaff rush to cover the ground as heavy rain sweeps across Galle © AFP
England's hopes of securing a face-saving draw they scarcely deserve have been boosted after torrential rain washed out the final two sessions on the fourth day at Galle. The players left the field shortly before lunch and, despite occasional brighter spells, monsoonal rains soon enclosed the ground. During the morning England showed more fight after yesterday's feeble effort as Alastair Cook's half century guided them to 102 for 1 following an opening stand of 67 with Michael Vaughan.

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.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo