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England chip away as Angelo Mathews battles for Sri Lanka

England chip away as Angelo Mathews battles for Sri Lanka
November 09
15:58 2018

(UTV|COLOMBO) – Sri Lanka 203 and 190 for 5 (Mathews 50*, Dickwell 16*) need a further 272 runs to beat England 342 and 322 for 6 dec (Jennings 146*, Stokes 62)

England have gone a record 13 Tests overseas without a victory and have never won in Galle, but surely now only Angelo Mathews – or the rain – can thwart them.

They went into tea on the fourth day requiring only five more wickets for victory, with Sri Lanka still 272 runs short of their notional target of 462. Mathews, having just reached his second half-century of the match, provided some hope of salvation.

On another day, against a more robust opponent, England would surely rue some squandered chances. But while James Anderson may shudder at the memory of putting down Mathews on 17 and Ben Stokes may do likewise for dropping Dimuth Karunaratne on 16, so undisciplined was the Sri Lanka batting that they have so far failed to make England pay for the errors.

That indiscipline was typified in the afternoon session when Kusal Mendis sliced to mid-off. Mendis had got away with a mis-hit drive the previous ball: spotting Moeen about 30 yards off the long-off boundary, he skipped down the pitch and drove Jack Leach just over the fielder’s head. But in attempting a repeat to the next delivery, he gifted Moeen a simple catch.

It was a nice piece of bowling to lure Mendis into the drive and spin the ball away from his stroke and a neat piece of captaincy to place the fielder in a position where the batsman felt he could clear him, but it really was an oddly obliging stroke from a man who should have been batting to save a Test.

But if Mendis was, to an extent at least, the architect of his own downfall, Dinesh Chandimal was the victim of a lovely piece of bowling. Drawn forward by a delivery, bowled around the wicket, that drifted towards middle-and-leg and gripped off the pitch, he could do little to prevent it passing his outside edge and hitting the top of off stump.

The frustration for Sri Lanka was that England were, for much of the day, not at their best. Anderson’s drop, at midwicket, was scant reward for a terrifically sustained spell of hostile short bowling from Stokes that defined the docility of the surface and unsettled the batsmen, while Stokes’ own drop at slip, off Moeen’s second delivery of the day, was as simple as it was out of character. Stokes was, perhaps, distracted by wicketkeeper, Ben Foakes, making a move for the ball.

Sri Lanka appeared to have done the hard work, too. They resisted admirably for the first hour of the day but, three balls after the first drinks break of the day, Kaushal Silva attempted to sweep a straight ball from Leach and was adjudged leg before. To compound the error, Silva squandered a review in his attempt to have the decision overturned.A few minutes later Karunaratne, one of the few men in this side with the temperament to bat for several sessions, skipped down the pitch and drilled a return catch to give Moeen his 150th Test wicket. Karunaratne’s intention, no doubt, was to push back the mid-on and mid-off fielders and, perhaps, put Moeen off his length. But with Sri Lanka batting as long as they can in the hope that rain comes to their rescue – it appeared an oddly aggressive stroke.

Earlier play began on time despite torrential overnight rain. England had arrived slightly late at the ground in the expectation that play would be delayed but, so well was the playing surface covered, that no time was lost. Perhaps Sri Lanka could count themselves unfortunate. Hardly a day on England’s tour has been unaffected by rain ahead of this match but, despite it raining from around 6pm to 6am, not an over in this game has yet been lost.

It remains possible, in this monsoon season, that rain could yet come to Sri Lanka’s aid. But their batsmen will have to show Mathews more support, and a little more fight, to make that relevant.

Courtesy : espncricinfo

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