ENGLAND were heading for defeat on day four of the first Test against Sri Lanka, despite the best efforts of centurion Jonathan Trott.
Trott made a gutsy 112, his seventh Test century, to give England a chance of reeling in an imposing target of 340 - eight more than their previous best chase in 1928.
But aside from Matt Prior’s 41, there was not enough support and when Trott was seventh out England’s chances had all but gone.
At tea they were 259 for eight, with 81 still required.
Trott sent the third ball of the morning through the off-side for four but Pietersen looked troubled from the off.
He gave Suranga Lakmal the sniff of a caught and bowled chance and had added just a single to his overnight score of 29 when he fell in the third over.
His shot was a grim reprise of Andrew Strauss’ dismissal yesterday, down the track and hitting a turning ball straight to mid-wicket, where Mahela Jayawardene held on.
It was a hammer blow for England and Pietersen, who took an age to set off for the pavilion.
Trott, meanwhile, produced a neat reverse sweep to bring up his fifty and Ian Bell got going with a lofted four off Randiv.
After 12 overs, Jayawardene sent for Herath, who took six first-innings wickets and dismissed both openers last night.
Trott and Bell were doing a decent job of neutralising the nervous energy created by Pietersen’s dismissal, only for Trott to send a leading edge straight back to Herath on 62.
It was a catchable height but the bowler grassed it one-handed.
England’s luck did not hold, with Herath winning an lbw verdict against Bell with the score at 152.
The batsman immediately reviewed the decision, with the suspicion of an edge, but replays were not conclusive enough to reprieve him.
Prior settled quickly as England reached 177 for four at lunch.
The fifth-wicket pair looked to work the singles after returning for the afternoon’s play and Sri Lanka’s in-out field allowed them to do so.
The England 200 was quickly followed by the fifty partnership, which took 127 balls.
After 10 trouble-free overs after lunch, Jayawardene took the new ball.
The returning Lakmal leaked eight from his second over with it, including a rare boundary as Prior crashed one through cover.
Chanaka Welegedara was also taken for eight as he returned to the attack, with England’s scoring rate spiking and their opponents beginning to flag.
Trott brought up his century by sweeping Herath for four, ending a sequence of 18 singles and celebrating lavishly in front of the Barmy Army stronghold on the Galle Fort.
Four balls later it was the home fans celebrating as Prior swept Herath hard towards short-leg, where Lahiru Thirimanne clung on after absorbing the impact with his body.
Having contributed 41 in 88 balls, his scalp was a key one.
That brought debutant Samit Patel to the crease for his second Test innings. With 107 still to get and just two to his name in his first attempt, the tension was stifling.
The large English contingent, largely hushed in the morning session, began to count off the landmarks with large cheers - a roar as the target dipped into double figures and another for the 250th run.
Once again, a wicket derailed their fun.
Patel was the man to go, for nine, clearing his front foot and picking out Tillakaratne Dilshan at short extra-cover.
He juggled the chance initially, only to snare the ball one-handed at the second attempt and hand Herath his second five-wicket haul of the match.
England’s prospects were firmly on Trott’s shoulders now but he was gone in the next over, turning Randiv to Dilshan at leg-slip.
His five-and-a-half hour knock was a superb effort in trying circumstances but it appeared certain to be in a losing cause.
Graeme Swann lasted only nine balls before the now inevitable Herath lbw arrived.