By Matthew Sherry
England Lions moved towards a triumph in the first ‘Test’ versus Sri Lanka A as Chris Woakes continued his stunning captain’s performance.
Woakes claimed four wickets as the second-string took command yesterday by dismissing their hosts for 171 to secure a first-innings lead of 159.
Not content, he starred with bat and ball today, firstly striking a superb 92 not out as England posted 319 for eight declared.
Facing an uphill task with a victory target of 479, Sri Lanka were further undermined by Woakes – who claimed 2-10 in helping reduce them to 164 for five at the close of the penultimate day.
Proceedings did not initially move in England’s favour at the start of day three as Dhammika Prasad had Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow caught behind cheaply.
The wicket of Liam Plunkett, trapped lbw by Tharindu Kaushal, threatened to offer Sri Lanka unlikely hope.
However, Woakes – well supported by a fine 64 from Scott Borthwick – quickly put paid to that.
The duo, who each have a sole Test cap to their name thus far, put on 155, with the former hitting eight fours and the latter five.
Their partnership ultimately ended when Borthwick advanced to Kaushal to fall stumped. Surprisingly, Woakes headed off with his long-time partner rather than attempting to add the eight runs required for a century.
The bowlers quickly set about following up their skipper’s fine work, Graham Onions having Udara Jayasundera caught at slip by Varun Chopra.
Things went from bad to worse immediately as Woakes got in on the act, claiming the prized scalp of Upul Tharanga before snaring Bhanuka Rajapaksa caught and bowled.
Sri Lanka’s struggles against seam did not stop there, Liam Plunkett having Niroshan Dickwella taken in the cordon.
Tymal Mills, the only paceman not to claim a wicket, played his part too, conceding a mere seven runs off five overs.
Conditions seemed to ease thereafter, with Madawa Warnapura and Chaturanga de Silva battling impressively in a 68-run alliance.
But, just as it appeared Sri Lanka would reach the close without further damage, James Taylor claimed a smart catch at silly mid-off as Moeen Ali got rid of the latter for 43.