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Paul Best

Captain Paul Best hit a valuable 37 to help England into the lead before taking three wickets as Sri Lanka closed seven down

Jacob Ball and Paul Best shone in Scarborough as England Under-19s gave themselves an excellent chance of levelling the Test series with Sri Lanka.

Beginning day three on 223 for six, still 94 runs shy of Sri Lanka's first-innings score, England gradually crept into a narrow lead just after lunch with Best's patient 37 and an entertaining 26 not out from Ball proving crucial.

Ball then dismantled the Sri Lanka top-order, taking the first three wickets to fall as the tourists finished the day on 171 for seven - 167 ahead - when bad light brought play to a premature end.

Best chipped in with three wickets to take his tally to eight for the match and the England captain will hope for three quick wickets tomorrow and a chase of less than 200.

Under a covering of grey cloud, Warwickshire all-rounder Best and Adam Ball began the morning session with caution knowing early wickets would scupper England's hopes of a Test victory.

It was Ball who delivered the first statement of intent with two boundaries in quick succession off Sanitha de Mel as the Kent teenager moved to 18.

But the revival did not last long as Ball was struck in front by a swinging full toss from Chathura Peiris that umpire Mark Benson adjudged to be destined for the stumps. It was the Sri Lanka captain's second five-wicket haul in consecutive matches.

The watchful Best, after making a defiant 37 from 148 balls, then chipped a catch to mid-on in Peiris' next over as England stuttered to 261 for eight.

Wicketkeeper Adam Rouse strode to the crease looking resplendent in a pair of bright orange batting gloves which shone like a beacon in the North Yorkshire gloom.

Unfortunately he failed to produce an innings to match his snazzy attire, bowled between flashing bat and pad attempting to drive a googly from Nadeera Rajaguru.

The last pair of Jacob Ball and David Payne joined forces with England still 34 runs behind, but they quickly hacked away at the deficit like a busy gardener strimming nettles.

Flourishing after lunch, Ball belied his position at the foot of the batting order with an elegant drive for four off Rajaguru, sinking down on one knee as he caressed the ball through the covers.

Beauty then gave way to beast as Ball then launched a towering six towards Trafalgar Square off Rumesh Buddika, a brutal strike which put England four runs ahead.

But the fun soon ended when Payne, having compiled a useful 18, gloved a short ball from de Mel to second slip as the innings came to a close.

Both Ball and Payne came to the fore as a rampant England took to the field and carved through the Sri Lanka top order.

Ball, pumping his arms as he charged to the crease in a manner reminiscent of Steve Harmison, took three wickets in a fiery 15-ball spell as Sri Lanka collapsed to 20 for four.

After three consecutive maidens, Ball angled one back up the slope to trap Nipun Karunanayake leg before.

The Balls then combined to dismiss Buddika, Adam taking a steepling catch off Jacob's bowling, before the Nottinghamshire seamer thudded a delivery into Ramith Rambukwella's pads which prompted umpire Peter Willey to raise his finger.

At the other end, the impressive Payne, who on other days will bowl worse and pick up more wickets, dismissed Bhanuka Rajapaksa with Louis Gregory taking the catch.

Sri Lanka, deciding that attack was their preferred method of defence, took advantage of some attacking fields to relieve some of the pressure with Kithuruwan Vithanage particularly adventurous.

Having reached 53 which included one huge six off Best, the left-arm spinner got his revenge with a quicker ball the pegged back off stump.

Best took the other two wickets to fall, either side of that dismissal, with Joe Root and Rouse taking catches.

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