England battle back in daunting chase

Wed, 28 Mar 11:45:00 2012

England battled back to retain an outside chance of victory after finishing day three at 111 for two in their second innings, chasing 340 runs to win the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle.

Kevin Pietersen England Sri Lanka - 0

Sri Lanka were finally bowled out for 214 in their second innings with Prasanna Jayawardene left unbeaten on 61 as the hosts frustrated England's weary bowlers with a stubborn lower-order effort.

The tourists lost openers Alastair Cook and captain Andrew Strauss with just 48 on the board, but Jonathan Trott (40) and Kevin Pietersen (29) shared a fine partnership to reduce the deficit to 229 runs at stumps.

England, the top-ranked side in world cricket, have never successfully chased more than 332 to win a Test match and must do so if they are to win the first of the two-match series.

Sri Lanka's last two wickets ensured that it was an even more arduous run chase than originally seemed on the cards for England as the hosts added a valuable 87 runs to their total.

England, who needed to get the remaining five Sri Lanka wickets early after conceding a big first innings lead, were kept on the field till mid-afternoon in tough conditions.

The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Jayawardene thwarted a tired set of England bowlers as he batted for 123 balls to compile his undefeated half-century with the help of three fours and three sixes.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann finished with fine figures of six for 82 in what was his 12th five-wicket haul in Tests, while Monty Panesar picked up two for 59.

Swann bowled unchanged for 15 overs in the morning session to add two wickets to his overnight tally before being relieved shortly before lunch.

Panesar got the first breakthrough of the morning when he dismissed Dinesh Chandimal (31), who went for an inside out shot but only managed to scoop the ball to Pietersen for an easy catch at mid-off.

His dismissal ended a 42-run sixth wicket stand with Suraj Randiv (18), who was later trapped lbw by Swann, before the spinner bowled Rangana Herath for seven.

Jayawardene then received vital support from tailenders Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal, who each contributed 13 runs – efforts which could well prove vital.

The pair helped Jayawardene stitch together partnerships of 40 for the ninth wicket and 47 for the last as the England bowlers toiled in the humid conditions.

The second new ball was taken as soon as it was available after 80 overs, but did not yield any results and it was left to Panesar to eventually dismiss Welegedara when he had him caught at the gully by Strauss.

Lakmal's 29-ball resistance ended with a run out as he attempted a second run to give Jayawardene the strike but failed to beat Pietersen's throw from deep mid-wicket to the bowler.

England's reply got off to an inauspicious start as Cook was controversially given caught behind off the bowling of the ever-dangerous Herath. The opener was originally given not out, only for Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene to have the decision overturned by the TV umpire.

The desperately out of form England captain departed shortly afterwards for 27 as he was caught in two minds and subsequently saw a thick edge snaffled by Tillakaratne Dilshan at short mid-wicket.

But Trott and Pietersen steadied their side and consolidated the loss of the two early wickets with a solid unbeaten partnership of 63 runs as Sri Lanka unsuccessfully strived for further wickets.

The England pair will likely have a great deal of work left to do on day four if the tourists are to claim an improbable victory with 229 more runs required on a turning wicket and with Herath a persistent threat.

Dan Quarrell - Twitter @Dan_Eurosport / Eurosport

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