England had to put their push for a series-sealing victory on hold as Sri Lanka’s belated resistance kept them waiting in the second Investec Test at Chester-le-Street.
Captain Angelo Mathews (80), Kaushal Silva (60) and then Dinesh Chandimal (54no) all made the home attack work much harder than previously, to trail by 88 on 309 for five at stumps on day three.
Three defiant half-centuries assured the tourists of easily their most substantial total in four attempts so far in the series, more than doubling their previous best in fact. But they were following on a mammoth 397 runs behind, and the extent of their ambition could still scarcely be more than regaining a little lost confidence and causing England minor inconvenience. If so, this was finally a case of mission accomplished for Sri Lanka.
They began their second innings having lost 30 wickets for 311 in the series to date, and badly needed to summon a rearguard. Sri Lanka’s batsmen presented a new air of determination from the outset and relative serenity by mid-evening but it was still almost certain to eventually prove too little too late to stop England taking an unassailable 2-0 lead.
Openers Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne negotiated 16 overs and appeared set to see off the first spell from each of England’s four seamers, until the left-hander pushed out in defence at Chris Woakes and edged to second slip.
Then, in the hour after lunch, counter-attacking Kusal Mendis was caught-behind off James Anderson and Lahiru Thirimanne bowled playing inside a Moeen Ali off-break.
Thereafter, Sri Lanka’s transient survival on a slow pitch was less fraught – Silva completing his 111-ball 50 with a leg-glance off Steven Finn for his sixth four in a fourth-wicket stand of 82.
Mathews targeted Moeen on his way to 50 from just 63 balls, with one piece of fortune on 36 when Jonny Bairstow failed to gather for a stumping chance.
Finn struck for the first time, in his 18th over of the match, when Silva tried to farm runs leg-side but steepled a catch off a leading edge to Bairstow.
Anderson earned the wicket of Mathews, distracted perhaps by a preceding delivery with kept low but missed off-stump and then turned round in defence and edging behind. Sri Lanka had folded from only three or four down previously, but refused to do so this time.
It had taken England only 3.3 overs to take the tourists’ last two first-innings wickets and bowl them out for 101. Stuart Broad finished with figures of four for 40.
He needed just three legitimate deliveries to see off No 10 Suranga Lakmal caught-behind. Then Thirimanne was last out, skying a catch to point off Anderson.