- England – Sri Lanka Third Test
By Dion Michael
Alastair Cook and Kevin Pieterson both hit fifties as England overcame a slight wobble to remain in control of the third test match against Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Midway into an extended final session on day three, the hosts had reached 126 for 3 in reply to Sri Lanka’s disappointing 184 all out in their first innings. Pieterson was on 54 not out and Ian Bell on 4.
For just a brief spell in the morning the tourists had looked like they were competing effectively when they had England on a wobbly 14 for 2 after 8 overs.
Skipper Andrew Strauss (3) and Jonathan Trott (4) fell early as the Sri Lankan new ball bowlers made good use of the overcast conditions.
However Cook and Pieterson steadied the innings with a stand of 106 for the third wicket and when Cook was finally caught by Thilan Samaraweera off Dilhara Fernando for 55 England were in firm control of the game.
Earlier Sri Lanka resuming at their overnight 177 for 9 lasted were all out for 184 and brought Stuart Broad his first wicket when Welegedera was dismissed leaving Fernando stranded on a test best 39 not out.
On Friday, Persistent rain and fighting innings from Prasanna Jayawardene and tailender Dilhara Fernando had saved Sri Lanka from total.
Play for the day began only after lunch due to rain and much depended on Sri Lanka’s overnight pairing of Thilan Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardena to continue their fifth wicket partnership which had so far added 42.
However, Chris Tremlett had other ideas and returned test best figures of six for 42 on what was once his home ground to keep England firmly in control throughout the day.
The lanky fast bowler made best use of the favourable conditions gaining extra bounce and swing and was a constant threat to the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Jayawardene and Samaraweera had raised their stand to exactly 50 when Tremlett struck in the last ball of the second over for the day.
Samaraweera had just been struck a painful blow on the right hand when he was outdone by Tremlett’s bounce and saw his attempted push-drive fly straight to Kevin Pietersen at gully. Thisara Perera came out in his typical one-day attacking mode and lasted just two wild swishes off Tremlett – the first bringing him two runs from a miscued hook and the next ending up in the hands of wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Rangana Herath offered brief resistance adding 26 with Jayawardene, before he became Tremlett’s fifth victim when he hooked the bowler straight down fine legs throat. Jayawardene, who had spent much of day one in stout defence alongside Samaraweera, suddenly found himself running out of partners and decided it was time to play more shots and protect the tail.
Dilhara Fernando proved to be a useful ally and together the pair added 31 priceless runs for the eight wicket frustrating England’s attack who used up their final review too when they failed to overturn a not out LBW decision by umpire Rod Tucker.
Graeme Swann was introduced into the attack in a signal that the Sri Lankan batsmen had won their battle against the fast bowlers but ironically Jayawardene fell in only the second ball of the over sweeping straight to mid wicket.
Jaywardene made a resolute 43 off 104 balls and was once again the mainstay of the innings. Fernando continued to collect runs but Tremlett returned for another spell and had Suranga Lakmal caught for a duck to claim his sixth victim.