England staring down the barrel

Sri Lanka’s slow-but-steady approach paid dividends as they extended their two-run first innings lead into a 288-run advantage. Kumar Sangakkara made an assured half-century early on, while Chamara Kapugedera added another in the evening session, the first of his Test career. Monty Panesar picked up three wickets in an innings for the first time in a Test, but it was not enough to prevent Sri Lanka’s batsmen from chugging along calmly.

The day began with Upul Tharanga finally getting the better of Matthew Hoggard, unfurling several fluent off-side strokes as he and Sangakkara laid the foundations for the tourists. Hoggard dismissed Tharanga twice in three balls over the two innings at Edgbaston, but the young left-hander looked far more confident today. When Monty Panesar was brought on early in the day, Tharanga wasted little time before launching him over the straight boundary, and looked set to progress to a well-earned fifty – however, soon Alastair Cook grasped onto his second chance of the day at short leg, and Panesar had his first wicket.

The young Lutonian bowled with fantastic control throughout the day, returning figures of 36-13-73-3 – he never allowed the batsmen to get on top of him for more than a single delivery, and has a real chance of picking up a maiden five-wicket haul tomorrow. Sangakkara played Panesar’s turn and bounce well, but was eventually undone by an Andrew Flintoff delivery that slanted across him and ended up in the hands of Geraint Jones.

Sanath Jayasuriya entered proceedings at number five following a reshuffle, and announced his arrival by lacing one through the covers for four first ball. It wasn’t long before he became Panesar’s second victi, though, as he was trapped lbw playing the sweep shot to only his fifth ball.

Mahela Jayawardene battled hard during the afternoon session for his 45 – it was necessary after the wickets of Sangakkara and Jayasuriya had fallen in quick succession. He was eventually undone by one of many innocuous deliveries from Liam Plunkett, wafting at a wide ball and nicking it through to the ‘keeper. Jayawardene’s frustration at his untimely dismissal was evident as he smashed down his off-stump with his bat – a quick and profound apology to the umpires followed, as he tried to protect his bank balance from a significant fine.

Kapugedera’s arrival at number seven heralded a rare increase in the scoring rate – his first 25 runs came at a good lick, several boundaries coming as he settled quickly at the crease. Tillekaratne Dilshan’s diligent stay was ended by Matthew Hoggard on 32 when we was squared up by a tricky delivery, and all of a sudden Kapugedera was the last specialist batsman remaining.

He lost his number eight, Farveez Maharoof, when an ill-judged leave left the pseudo-allrounder staring at a flattened off-stump with a bat raised high in the air, and a grateful Monty Panesar celebrating. Then, at number nine, came the thorn in England’s side all throughout the series – Chaminda Vaas.

Vaas’ bowling was expected to be key for the Ceylonese in English conditions, but it has been his batting that has impressed the most on this tour, as he has held up the Sri Lankan tail on several occasions. Here, he provided a watchful 24 not out, guiding 19-year-old Kapugedera to his first Test fifty, and seeing his side through to an overnight score of 286-7.

Sri Lanka are very much in charge of this game following a difficult third day for the home side – England will need a record fourth innings score on this ground to win the game, and they will be facing the genius of Muttiah Muralitharan on a fourth-day pitch. With Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff all nursing minor injuries, it will take a tremendous effort from England to avoid defeat.

Sri Lanka 231
Chaminda Vaas 38*, Kumar Sangakkara 36
Andrew Flintoff 3-52, Jon Lewis 3-68

England 229
Paul Collingwood 48, Kevin Pietersen 41
Muttiah Muralitharan 3-62, Sanath Jayasuria 2-19

Sri Lanka 286-7
Kumar Sangakkara 66, Chamara Kapugedera 50*
Monty Panesar 3-73, Matthew Hoggard 2-51

Sri Lanka lead by 288 runs with 3 wickets remaining

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