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March 28, 2012
Graeme Swann believes England are "just favourites" to pull off their highest ever run chase and secure a come-from-behind victory against Sri Lanka in Galle after battling through the final session of the third day with eight wickets intact.
Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss had been dismissed with 48 on the board, both to Rangana Herath who took his match haul to eight with the potential to add plenty more but Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen survived a few scares - Trott an lbw review and Pietersen a dropped catch at leg slip - to raise the prospect of a tense fourth day.
It would go against the current form of the England top order if they achieved the target, which would overtake their 332 for 7 against Australia at Melbourne in 1928, with their highest total this year being 327 in the first innings in Abu Dhabi. Yet the ever-positive Swann, buoyed by his personal success of 6 for 82, was encouraged by what he saw.
"We just need a bit of good old fashioned rolling your sleeves up and getting your head down," he said. "The way KP and Trotty batted at the end is exactly what we need to do tomorrow. They got their heads down, they kept out their good ones. They made batting look as serene as it's going to get on that pitch. I'd say we're just favourites."
Victory for England would also blow away the ground records. The highest successful chase is 96 (that was without loss but from a small sample size) and Sri Lanka's 253 here last year against Australia is the highest fourth innings total. None of that, though, bothers Swann.
"I don't like stats," he said. "Just because somebody won a game in 1912 chasing 290 doesn't mean anything. This is 2012 and this is the match we are playing. History is there to be rewritten."
After a second day where 17 wickets tumbled, just seven fell on the third even though the pitch continued to wear. But it has remained slow throughout, without a huge amount of bounce - one reason why Monty Panesar has been less effective - and the batting of Sri Lanka's lower order showed what was possible.
"People who actually apply themselves and get their heads down are hard to shift on that pitch," Swann said. "If you take one genius knock of 180 out of this game we'd probably have won by now. That just proves that with the right technique and temperament it's quite heavenly to bat on as well."
Naturally, however, Sri Lanka believe the odds are stacked in their favour and as much Swann wants to shun history they are very happy to soak it up.
"We have the psychological advantage because they need to score more than 300," Prasanna Jayawardene said. "But we have to come out and bowl well in the morning. Rangana and Suraj are bowling very well and we also have Dilshan. The ball is also reversing when it gets older and our seamers can handle the old ball."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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