England set Sri Lanka 327 to win Colombo Test
November 25, 2018 04:44 pm
Sri Lanka will have to better the highest chase at Sinhalese Sports Club in order to win the third and final Test against England in Colombo. It doesn’t help that they are four down already in trying to chase 327 on a wearing pitch, and need a further 274 runs going into the fourth day.
Moeen Ali, sharing the new ball with Stuart Broad, picked two wickets to puncture the chase in its infancy. Danushka Gunathilaka was caught for 6 at slip by Ben Stokes whereas Dimuth Karunaratne was bowled through the gate by a beautiful offbreak from Moeen. The two wickets sandwiched Jack Leach’s strike in his first over, which saw Dhananjaya de Silva trapped LBW with an arm ball and a successful DRS review working their magic in equal proportions.
Ben Stokes was hostile with the ball again, bowling short and getting Angelo Mathews for the second time in the Test match. “Awful cricket from Angelo Mathews,” bellowed Michael Atherton on air for the host broadcaster.
A fifth-wicket partnership of 89 runs between Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes formed the mainstay of England’s batting in the second innings, helping the visitors overcome a top-order collapse to set a target of 327 runs.
Sri Lanka had started Day 3 on a good note actually. With Suranga Lakmal holding the other end with immaculate lines and lengths, Dilruwan Perera wreaked havoc, helping Sri Lanka pick four wickets in the first hour of play. The offspinner struck with the first ball of the day to remove Keaton Jennings LBW, and followed with the wickets of Rory Burns and Jonny Bairstow, latter without the luxury of warming up with a few gimme deliveries this time and falling to a sharp catch by Kaushal Silva at short-leg. Joe Root’s wicket came as a bonus, when he offered a return catch back to Malinda Pushpakumara off a leading edge.
The second hour saw Stokes and Buttler stabilize England but the rearguard stood punctuated by a lot of what-ifs. Stokes was out to Lakshan Sandakan twice, first caught at cover and then caught at slip, only to get away both times. Sandakan had bowled no-balls on both the occasions, allowing what started as a course-correcting partnership to become England’s driving force towards setting a daunting target.
Buttler had his fair share of close shaves too. He was given out LBW on 27 when Dhananjaya de Silva went round the wicket and got the ball to straighten, but ball-tracking found the ball bouncing over the middle-stump.
Perera’s five-wicket haul, and his march to become the fastest Sri Lankan to 100 wickets at home, brought Sri Lanka joy on a largely disappointing day.
Contrary to how the day started, the second session took off on an ominous note when Niroshan Dickwella dropped Buttler off Dhananjaya de Silva’s bowling, first ball after lunch. Buttler went on to score 64 - his second half-century of the series and the 12th of his career - even as Dilruwan Perera made amends by getting an increasingly aggressive Stokes caught at long-on. Thus ended a quick-fire 89-run stand for the fifth wicket which single-handedly helped England’s recovery back to strength.
Ben Foakes took over in the third session, making the most of Sri Lanka’s plight and successful DRS reviews to score 36 and take the target to over 300 runs. The question that remains now isn’t how, but how soon are England going to win it.
Brief scores: England 336 & 230 (Buttler 64, Stokes 42; Perera 5-88) lead Sri Lanka 240 & 53/4 (Karunaratne 23, Kusal Mendis 15*; Moeen 2-16) by 273 runs.