Swann bullish over England chances
Graeme Swann is confident England can complete the biggest fourth-innings chase in their history and win the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle.
The hosts added another 130 to their overnight 84 for five as a brilliant unbeaten 61 from Prasanna Jayawardene frustrated England and left them the daunting prospect of overhauling an imposing victory target of 340.
The tourists lost Alastair Cook and captain Andrew Strauss in reply, but an unbroken stand of 63 from Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen took England to 111 for two at the close and kept their hopes alive.
Off-spinner Swann, who claimed second-innings figures of 6-82 from 30 overs, believes England are capable of taking a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
“I’d say we are (favourites), we have had a good start and we are 111 for two,” he said.
“KP and Trotty are looking very secure at the crease so hopefully they can carry on with their burgeoning partnership. You don’t often get wickets turning on day two and so much on day three, so it’s something we are going to have to counter tomorrow.
“We have got a lot of good players of spin, even though a lot of people dont realise that, and I’m pretty convinced we can chase this down.
“It is very slow. I think we saw Stuart Broad try to ruff up the tailenders but there was no just no pace at all.
“It still is a good pitch and once people get in it’s very hard to shift them. The guys, after watching Sri Lanka bat, should be thinking ‘this is a pitch we can score runs on’.”
England took three quick wickets this morning, including Swann completing his 12th Test five-wicket haul, but Jayawardene added 47 with number 10 Chanaka Welegedara and, after being caught and bowled off a Broad no-ball on 29, then put on a further 47 with last man Suranga Lakmal.
Swann admitted the valuable partnerships at the end had thrown England off course.
“It was frustrating after lunch, I thought first session everything went to plan as we kept them very quiet and picked up three wickets,” he said.
“But after the 10th wicket fell on a no-ball, that started to become frustrating because Jayawardene batted beautifully after that.
“We went from chasing 290 to 340, we are never ones to make things easy for ourselves in the sub-continent and that was the case today."
Concerns has been raised by various people over Swann's place in the team after the return of fellow slow bowler Monty Panesar to the Test side.
But, after silencing his critics with six second-innings wickets, Swann has brushed aside any speculation about his form.
“I am obviously over the moon (to get six wickets),” he added. “To get four last night was probably the best I have bowled for a while for England and to pick up the two more this morning was nice to complete a five-for.
“People are more than welcome to their own opinions; my personal view is that perhaps the expectation of me has risen and that's due to my performances over the last couple of years.
“I’m quite pleased to be in that situation, but I take the rough with the smooth.”
Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Jayawardene is confident the hosts can see England off for the second time.
“We have the psychological advantage because they need to score more than 300,” he said.
“We have to be patient and do the basics well to get wickets. We have a big chance but we have to come out and bowl well in the morning.”