England Lions 461 and 39 for 1 lead Sri Lanka A 339 (Tharanga 149, Warnapura 71, Kerrigan 4-86, Mills 3-49) by 161 runs
So highly rated in county cricket but so emphatically embarrassed in his first Test at the Oval last year, Simon Kerrigan delivered an incisive spell in Colombo that exhibited his enduring desire, and with a little luck, may light his path to redemption.
Beset by nerves on debut, Kerrigan had come upon a beleaguered Shane Watson, who effectively used the bowler as a personal springboard. Kerrigan's two first overs went for 28 and his remaining six overs fared little better. Slow through the air, failing to extract turn and lacking conviction even in his run up, Kerrigan was fodder for Watson, and an object of sympathy for the crowds.
How different he must have felt in Colombo, where in the third session he bowled with five men catching around the bat, having already played the key role in shutting the opposition out of the series. His 4 for 86 are his best figures since the Oval trauma. Varying his lengths and flight, but rarely straying in line, Kerrigan will also take heart from having been the Lions' most economical bowler.
Discipline underwrote the visitors' gains on day three, as they caged overnight centurion Upul Tharanga in the morning session, building the pressure that brought them six wickets for 45 runs after lunch. In the first hour, the Lions' tactics hinted at a plan hatched overnight. When the fluent Tharanga took guard, they attacked briefly, but soon allowed him singles into the outfield, when the early-morning zip off the surface had disappeared.
But when his partner, Madawa Warnapura, was on strike, the Lions fenced him in. Warnapura's innings had already been sedate in comparison to Tharanga on the previous evening, but his progress was positively glacial on day three. He crossed fifty in the first 15 minutes, but scored only 24 from 84 deliveries in a period that, crucially, allowed Kerrigan to wheel himself into a rhythm with men around the bat.
A bowler who had seemed ordinary while Tharanga flayed him on day two, suddenly had his whole game humming, from approach to release to follow through. He had Warnapura edging behind not long before lunch, and perhaps the batsman will reflect that shutting out scoring strokes is a dangerous ploy, particularly against spin. Several of Warnapura's compatriots in the national team had discovered similar wisdom on their recent tour to the UAE.
Intent to keep Tharanga leashed, Kerrigan bowled flatter and faster to him, but could not resist placing a slip, and often a short leg, for him as well. He could not dismiss the centurion, but the slip did gobble a chance from a left-hander at the other end. Bhanuka Rajapakse had showed glimpses of promise with two crisp, aggressive strokes early in his stay, but when Kerrigan tossed one up outside his off stump, he aimed an expansive drive, and defeated by the flight, sent an edge to gully. That dismissal would begin Sri Lanka A's slide. Kerrigan did Jeevan Mendis in the flight as well, ten overs later. Seeing another delivery tossed up, Mendis played his favourite sweep shot, but could manage no more than a top edge.
In between, Tymal Mills had warmed to his own work, removing Tharanga with a short-of-length ball that took the outside edge, before dismissing Roshen Silva in near-identical fashion. Graham Onions took two wickets to extend the collapse, as the hosts stumbled from 254 for 2 to 299 for 8 in 22 overs.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella resisted doggedly alongside the tail for 39, refusing singles, but he was perhaps also guilty of a defensive mindset, as he regularly missed out on loose deliveries. Having not made a half-century this year, perhaps low confidence hampered him as well. Mills dismissed him eventually, before Kerrigan wrapped up the innings with his fourth wicket.
Alex Lees was bowled by Lahiru Gamage in the seventh over of the Lions' second innings, capping off a mediocre series for him, before Sam Robson was dropped in the gully on 8. He survived till stumps alongside Scott Borthwick, who had been promoted as a nightwatchman.