Trott and Pietersen raise England spirits
Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen shared an unbroken partnership of 63 to keep England’s hopes of victory alive in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle.
Andrew Strauss’ side, who have yet to collectively fire with the bat this winter, ended day three on 111 for two, requiring a further 229 to win after their opponents had earlier battled from an overnight score of 84 for five to 214 all out.
Mahela Jayawardene was instrumental in his side adding 65 for the final two wickets in the first innings. Today, his namesake Prasanna put on 40 with number 10 Chanaka Welegedara and, after being caught and bowled off a Stuart Broad no-ball on 29, then added a further 47 with last man Suranga Lakmal.
Jayawardene finished unbeaten on 61 and Sri Lanka’s tail-end resistance ensured England, for whom Graeme Swann returned 6-82, would need to pull off the highest successful chase in their history if they were to avoid a fourth successive Test defeat.
The efforts of Trott and Pietersen, who reached stumps on 40 and 29 respectively, at least ensured the tourists retained a fair amount of optimism heading into day four, although their task remains a tricky one on a spin-friendly surface showing increasing signs of deterioration.
Slow left-armer Rangana Herath once again represented the chief threat for Sri Lanka, dismissing both England openers to take his tally of wickets in the match to eight.
He was unable to cause significant problems to Trott, however, and Pietersen’s greatest discomfort came against the off-spin of Suraj Randiv, who had the Surrey batsman dropped at leg-gully on 12.
Alastair Cook began England’s second innings on a pair but was soon up and running as Lakmal served up two wide deliveries in his first over that were dispatched to the point boundary.
Strauss picked up his first four through the same region off Welegedara, before the introduction of spin again reaped rewards for Sri Lanka.
In his second over, and first after the tea interval, Herath had Cook caught behind for 14. The left-hander got a faint edge through to Jayawardene as he played across the line, although a review was required to send him on his way after umpire Rod Tucker initially remained unmoved.
Off-spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan, introduced ahead of Randiv, failed to overturn a ‘not out’ decision in the next over when replays showed Trott had been struck outside the line of off stump.
Herath then struck again as Strauss, who had appeared to be growing in confidence, skipped down the track to a flighted delivery and picked out a diving Dilshan at short midwicket to depart for 27.
After Pietersen had got off the mark with a stylish back-foot punch through the covers, an increasingly assured Trott provided a demonstration of how to prosper against Herath as he combined a series of trademark flicks through midwicket with well-struck sweeps and solid defence.
Pietersen was not quite as comfortable. He saw a leading edge fly narrowly wide of mid-off before enjoying further fortune when Kumar Sangakkara failed to hold on to a sharp chance off the inside edge.
However, there were also positive signs from England’s number four as he and Trott took their partnership past 50 shortly before the close.
After Dinesh Chandimal and nightwatchman Randiv had added 30 to the home total this morning, there had been encouragement for England as three wickets fell for the addition of 13 runs.
Chandimal, on 31, threw his wicket away for the second time in the match when, in an attempt to take the attack to Monty Panesar, he spooned a simple catch to Pietersen at mid-off.
Swann then had Randiv lbw for 18 in his first over from round the wicket and, when Herath failed to connect with a swipe across the line, the off-spinner became only the second England bowler, after John Emburey, to pick up six wickets in an innings in Sri Lanka.
Jayawardene and Welegedara dug in thereafter and it was not until after lunch that the latter departed, superbly caught at gully by Strauss off Panesar having faced 53 deliveries for his 13.
Sri Lanka’s innings looked to have been brought to an end moments later when Broad accepted a return catch from Jayawardene’s mis-cued pull, but umpire Rod Tucker’s decision to check for a front-foot no-ball proved wise, with the seamer having overstepped.
Jayawardene made the most of his reprieve, striking Panesar for four and six down the ground to take the lead beyond 300.
A second maximum, off Broad, brought up his half-century and he claimed six more when Samit Patel, fielding at deep backward square, stepped on the boundary rope as he attempted to take a catch off Swann.
A hugely frustrating 10th-wicket stand finally ended when Lakmal was run out for 13 as he looked to make it back for a second at the non-striker’s end.