Jayawardene, Vaas crush England

Sri Lanka inflicted immense pain on England supporters on the third day of the Third Test in Galle, though the tourists had themselves to blame for the debacle to great extent. In the morning, while the hosts were plundering 115 runs from 19.5 overs they put down their 6th catch of the innings, and then were handed a demonstration of how the job in the field should be done as Chaminda Vaas, backed by Lasith Malinga, debutant Chanaka Welegedara and the inevitable Muttiah Muralitharan – plus, vitally, their fielders – knocked them over for 81. This despite the fact that nearly 3 hours’ play was lost when heavy rain swept the ground in mid-afternoon.

The home side had displayed everything but urgency on the opening two days, sauntering to 384 for 6 (with great help from England’s butter-fingered fielders) off 129 overs. Finally, however, Mahela Jayawardene and Vaas, 149* and 46* overnight respectively, decided to step on the gas. Both men brought-up their impending milestones in the opening over they faced, and proceeded with the job of blasting the ball around the park. Prior reprieved Jayawardene for a second time (the first on 66) on 154 to complete a hat-trick of missed opportunities in what has been another forgettable Third Test for the Sussex gloveman to go with his Oval nightmare against India last summer.

The partnership – and the run of drops – was finally ended on 183. Vaas was unfortunate to miss a century, doubly so perhaps given that he offered a chance (from a top-edged pull off Hoggard) which was actually caught. Michael Vaughan did his best to allow it to slip from his grasp, but failed to complete the job and Vaas was gone for 90. Hoggard finally had his first wicket of the innings after being denied four times by fielders and Umpires alike. Ryan Sidebottom too had three missed chances off him and not for the first time in his short career could be left wondering just how he ended with figures as poor as 1 for 95. Jayawardene completed his double-century before Paul Collingwood bowled Malinga in the 149th over whereupon he finally called it a day at 499 for 8, leaving England 8 overs to face before lunch.

In the 3rd, the chaos started. Vaas has consistently slid the ball across Vaughan all series, but now he found, as England’s new-ball bowlers had, prodigious swing. Unlike the England bowlers, he made it count: with his first delivery at the captain he pitched one outside off from over-the-wicket, bent it back in sufficiently to hit middle, and Vaughan offered no shot. The decision could not have been easier for the Asad Rauf, and in Malinga’s next over Alastair Cook pushed the ball into the covers and called Ian Bell for a single. He soon changed his mind, but Bell could not get back to the non-striker’s crease and Tillakaratne “Dead-Eye” Dilshan struck once again with a direct-hit from point.

Cook could not atone for his error, and 3 overs later he was gone too, Vaas producing another superb delivery which forced the batsman to play, drew the edge, and Prasanna Jayawardene made no mistake. Fortune has turned against Kevin Pietersen in this series and after his grubber from Dilhara Fernando at Kandy he felt the opposite end of the spectrum this time, as Malinga got one to climb viciously from just short of a length. He almost got his gloves out of the way, but could not quite drop the hands quick enough, and Jayawardene took a good catch. England took lunch at 24 for 4.

Things got no better after the break: Bopara played an appalling chip to mid-on from Vaas off the 3rd delivery of the session, and in his next over the left-armer struck again when Prior was unable to contend with not just inswing but another piece of indifferent bounce, as the ball kept low and rattled into his off-stump. Vaas had four, and England were 33 for 6.

Collingwood and Sidebottom managed to spare a few blushes, more than doubling the total either side of the lengthy delay. Muralitharan can rarely be kept at bay too long, however, and he eventually had Sidebottom caught at short-leg with a perfectly pitched wrong-‘un. Welegedara had kept and impressive line and length on his debut, and he was rewarded in his 8th over when Collingwood played around a straight ball which crashed into off, and Hoggard edged another to Mahela Jayawardene at first-slip.

The excellence of the Sri Lankans’ fielding was demonstrated one final time for the innings with the final wicket, though it potentially denied Vaas a well-deserved five-wicket bag. Harmison knocked the ball to leg for an easy single, Panesar failed to take-off and though Welegedara’s throw could have been better Prasanna Jayawardene gathered it brilliantly and hurled down the stumps to catch the left-arm fingerspinner just short of his ground.

It was England’s lowest completed innings in a Test since they were dismissed for 77 by Australia at Lord’s in 1997. There was some speculation that Jayawardene might waive the follow-on and extend his first-innings lead of 418, but he elected to enforce. They got just a single over that session before the light closed-in but will hope for sufficient play tomorrow and on Saturday to convert the crushing dominance of the match so far into victory. It would be something of an injustice if the weather were to deny them.

Sri Lanka 499 for 8 declared
Kumar Sangakkara 46, Mahela Jayawardene 213*, Tillakaratne Dilshan 84, Chaminda Vaas 90

England 81
Chaminda Vaas 4-28

England 2 for 0

England trail by 416 runs with 10 second-innings wickets remaining

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