GALLE, Sri Lanka (AP) — Captain Joe Root smashed 186 runs to lead England ever closer to Sri Lanka’s first-innings total as they finished day three on 339 for nine, just 42 runs behind on Sunday.
Root’s epic innings came to an end in the last over of the day when he was run out 14 short of another double hundred. Sri Lanka’s bowlers had no answer for the Yorkshireman and it appeared inevitable that he was only going to be dismissed through a run out.
Root faced 309 deliveries and hit 18 fours in his monster innings.
Root attempted to flick Dilruwan Perera to mid-wicket but the thick edge was grabbed by Oshada Fernando at short leg on the bounce. Root had taken a few steps out of the crease and sensing an opportunity Fernando threw the stumps down as a tired Root’s diving effort couldn’t save him.
Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya finished with a seven-wicket haul but the day belonged to the England captain, who put up a splendid show of character and determination in batting for more than eight hours. He had posted a double hundred in the first test that England won by seven wickets.
Not since West Indian Brian Lara’s exploits in Galle in 2001 when he scored 688 runs in six innings, had a batsman played spin bowlers so expertly. Root now has 415 runs in three innings.
The sweep shot was Root’s bread and butter and he executed it to perfection, finding gaps frequently despite Sri Lana having three fielders in the leg-side boundary.
The 30-year-old reached his 19th test hundred in the morning and during his knock went past the run tallies of three former England greats – David Gower 8,231, Kevin Pietersen 8,181 and Geoffrey Boycott 8,114.
Root, playing in his 99th test match, now has 8,238 test runs and is fourth among England batsmen.
Apart from Embuldeniya, the rest of Sri Lanka’s bowling failed to impress, with off-spinner Dilruwan Perera failing to pick up a wicket despite the 38-year-old bowling 32 overs.
England resumed from the overnight score of 98 for two and lost Jonny Bairstow (28) and Daniel Lawrence (3) early. Jos Buttler (55) added 97 runs for the fifth wicket with Root.
An 81-run stand for the seventh wicket between Dominic Bess (32) and Root took England’s total to 333 for six. But Sri Lanka struck back, taking three wickets for six runs late in the day to reduce the tourists to 339 for nine.
England vice-captain Buttler applauded his captain’s effort.
“Quite an amazing innings to back up his double hundred in the first test. Today’s knock has been a masterclass batting against spin. It has been a great education for us watching him go about and we thoroughly enjoyed watching him play. Sad way to get out in that fashion in the end,” he said.
Embuldeniya finished with career best figures of 7-132 and spoke about getting his basics right.
“It’s been very tiring day but that’s part of the game. Just tired to bowl to a good line and the wicket did the rest. It’s challenging as the wicket is on the slow side so the batsmen tend to go on the back foot and play shots. All what I can do is to bowl to a good line and length and that’s what I was trying to do,” he said.
The left-arm spinner went onto say that batting fourth is going to be tough.
“The wicket is turning now compared to the first two days. If we can take the last wicket early and if we can get something over 150, we are in the game as it would be tough to bat on the last day here.”
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