Sri Lanka 288 and 32 for 0 (Karunaratne 19*, Silva 12*) need a further 330 runs to beat England 416 and 233 for 7 dec (Hales 94, Cook 49*, Pradeep 3-37, Eranga 3-58)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England would have had two main ambitions on a bedraggled fourth day at Lord's. The first would have been to make incursions into Sri Lanka's second innings to prepare a route to victory and a 3-0 clean sweep in the series; the second, a maiden Test hundred for Alex Hales
. Neither eventuated as Sri Lanka continued to resist gamely in the final Test.
Left with 12 overs to see out at the end of the day, Sri Lanka's openers clipped 32 from the 362 needed for victory. Alastair Cook's declaration at 233 for 7 was well judged, a touch more generous perhaps than if the series had been level. The pitch is a little uneven, but nothing excessive and, judging by the sober way Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva went about their work, Sri Lanka look in the mood to scrap every inch of the way.
Hales is getting closer to a treasured first Test hundred, but he will have to wait a while yet. He was on 94, only six runs short, when he fell lbw only 10 minutes before tea, trying to turn Angelo Mathews quietly on the leg side. He reviewed umpire Rod Tucker's decision, but it was with a wan expression from a man fearing the worst. Ball-tracking technology held that the ball would have struck the top of leg stump.
With two 80s to his name in the series, Hales could at least console himself that he had done much to implant himself at the top of the order, his composed, if occasionally fortunate, innings providing more evidence that he can successfully adjust to the demands of the five-day game. Without repeated self-destruction against Sri Lanka's spinners earlier in the series, he could have been basking in something even better.
Rain had prevented a start until 2.40pm, but England held an overnight lead of 237 and, despite several more pesky showers, the day yielded 45 overs, enough to keep the Test meaningful.
Hales' composure held England's second innings together, even if he was not without fortune. On 58, he suffered a replica of Joe Root's dismissal the previous day - his off stump hit by a shooter from Nuwan Pradeep
- only for umpire Tucker to call no-ball. TV replays suggested that Pradeep's heel was behind the line on first impact, the umpire perhaps being fooled by the bowler's foot slipping forward on landing.
Understandable complaints that international umpires were ignoring repeated no-balls so that they could concentrate on events at the business end of the pitch seem to have caused a recent reassessment of that approach, but Tucker's no-ball call for such a borderline delivery - a wrong call as it turned out - will not allay concerns that the system has become outdated in a TV age..
With no chance under current regulations to use TV evidence to reverse the decision, Sri Lanka were understandably aggrieved. Those regulations were already due to be examined at the ICC annual meeting in Edinburgh later this month.
Undiplomatically, Sri Lanka responded by hanging the national flag from the Lord's balcony, which could either be regarded as a plucky statement to their players that they would fight on regardless of their mounting ill luck or, conversely, as an infantile gesture carrying the implication of umpiring bias. The request soon came through for them to take it down: Lord's does not allow flags of any description, certainly not from dressing room balconies.
Thilanga Sumathipala, SLC's president, called the decision "unacceptable" and said: "It will be reported to the ICC. The flag is a symbol. It is a mark to say we are not happy with the decision. To show solidarity and fight back."
Sri Lanka also thought they might have had Hales on 45 when Shaminda Eranga
brought one back to strike him on the top of the pad but umpire S Ravi's not-out decision was upheld by virtue of "umpire's call" on review.
The breaks in Hales' favour were fast adding up. In reaching 41 by Saturday's close, he might have fallen on 19, if Karunaratne had clung on to a low chance to his left at second slip and again on 39, shortly before the close, when he glanced Pradeep down the leg side only for Dinesh Chandimal to grass the chance. There were no reports of draped flags then.
Nevertheless, Hales had some dominant moments, too, none better than when he conquered Rangana Herath's over-the-wicket attack into the rough by hoisting the left-arm spinner straight for six, then sweeping his next delivery for four.
England did lose the nightwatchman Steven Finn, lbw to Eranga, clearing the way for Cook. His place at No. 7 was purely happenstance, and not due to regulations limiting a player's place in the batting order after injury, explained by the fact that his mishap while fielding at silly point was regarded as an external injury.
Cook showed no ill effects although he, too, flirted with the vagaries of the review system. On 6, Herath spun one back to hit his thigh, playing back, but replays showed the ball had struck him outside the line. Then, in Herath's very next over, he was struck in line of off stump by another sharp spinner, but this Sri Lanka erroneously chose not to appeal the original not-out decision. Hawk-Eye would have sent the England captain on his way for 11.
Cook's unbeaten 49, batting at No. 7, including a deep midwicket six into the Mound Stand off Eranga - he had hit 10 previously in Tests - and surely his first attempted ramp shot. The latter felt a bit like tipsy dad on the dancefloor. Probably judging that was enough tomfoolery for one day, he then declared, no doubt returning to a dressing room where he commands so much respect that players can happily giggle at his adventure.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps