SRI LANKA VS ENGLAND, 2018
Cricbuzz Staff •
Mathews wicket has put England on the verge of a 2-0 leader. © AFP
Two wickets in space of three islands after Tea left Sri Lankan hopes to win the Pallekele test and leveling the three-match series, hanging with a wire like rain forced early stumps on Day 4.
Requires 82 more to win, Sri Lanka resumed his match post Tea with a well-equipped Angelo Mathews who led the way to 87 not out and Niroshan Dickwella on a run-a-ball 23 in the middle of an unbeaten 43-round tripod. However, momentum swung quickly when Moeen Ali got rid of the former Sri Lankan captain only three balls in the last session.
Mathews had just added another run to his battle game when he in a potential game-changing moment popped Moeen Ali on him plumb in front of the stump. In a desperate attempt, Mathews chose only one review to be put down – exposing Sri Lanka's tail.
More drama followed in Moeen after Ben Stokes claimed a catch at the start of releasing the new batsman Dilruwan Perera's bat. However, the rehearsals confirmed that the edge had not been worn and Sri Lanka raised the sigh of relief. Perera's joy was short-lived when he was caught leg before Jack Leach for his fourth wicket in the innings, shortly after which the sky opened. The players were forced from the field and the rest of the game abandoned shortly afterwards, leaving England with three scalps to claim the series on the last day, and the hosts 75 continue to destroy their party.
Earlier, Mathew's gas partnership with Dimuth Karunaratne was first and then Roshen Silva who gave Sri Lanka hope for a spin-assisting track. In the quest for 301 to draw level in the series, the home team was reeling at 26 for 3 when Leach ripped up the top order for his three strikes in so many surpluses. Mathews, along with Karunas, put the hunt back on track and later reinforced his team's grip on the game with another important partnership with first-inning hero Roshen Silva.
After England's last wicket pair Ben Foakes and James Anderson left 22 for their overnight result, Sri Lanka was set to a target of 301 to force a decision maker in Colombo. What seemed a difficult question on a track that gave a lot of help to spinners became a nightmare eight overs in Sri Lanka's reply.
Leach had Kaushal Silva stumped as he danced down the track but was struck by a lot of luck. In the following time, Keaton Jennings picked one out of the thin air forward short legs to send Dhananjaya de Silva on his way. Shortly after, Kusal Mendis became another victim of a missed attempt – adjudged lbw but only in England's review.
Moeen was twice unlucky in the morning session – which gave the edge of both Karunaratne and Mathews just for Ben Stokes to put down the tough chances at first gliding. It was probably the luck Sri Lanka needed to transform their fortunes. The couple showed tremendous patience as England continued to attack with its four spinners. They were happy to squeeze singles and convert them to twice with some good running between the wickets holding the scoreboard ticking along perfectly.
Karunaratne, who had survived a catch behind Anderson's appeal early in his innings, continued to register his fifty before lunch. However, the opener fell shortly after the break with another amazing bet from Jennings on the forward-facing short leg. England fielder awaited a swept from Karunaratne, moved to the left immediately and parried the edge to the goalkeeper to put an end to the fourth wicket partnership.
Mathews hardly played a foul shot, and made more sense to run between the wickets to keep the runs on track. But, unlike Karunas, he swore more often for his borders. Even though he lost a benevolent partner, Mathews was no mood to let go of the bad balls offered. Rashid was sent to the fence twice on both sides of the wicket, when he released it briefly.
After his first innings hero, Roshen received a campaign in the batting order and repaid the team manager's faith. With Mathews well-positioned at one end, Roshen took his time, even had some troubled moments in the middle, but also played some delightful runs in his vital stay in the middle. He played a perfect second violin to Mathews and contributed 37 of the 95 balls he met.
A sure DRS appeal by Joe Root, who claimed the catch, helped England break the threatening partnership at 73. Rosen got the weakest edges of the English captain and tried girl one on the gas side, giving Moeen a pie after all his job.
If Mathew's two partnerships were so prudent so far, Niroshen Dickwella took the aggression. Sri Lanka's goalkeeper was down to swipe (and reverse-sweeping) directly from the second case he met. A couple of surprises later, he beat Moeen for his second limit that scored Sri Lanka within 100 runs of the goal.
Sri Lanka led to Tea more sure that the two sides had made 126 runs for only two wickets in the second session, just for two quick strikes to leave the match that was in balance.
Short points: Sri Lanka 336 and 226/7 (Angelo Mathews 88, Dimuth Karunaratne 57, Jack Leach 4-73) Track England 290 & 346 of 75 runs.