Sri Lanka batsmen fight back
England Lions suffered a frustrating day at Derby as Tillakaratne Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavitana batted Sri Lanka back into contention in their tour match.
Dilshan and Paranavitana followed up their centuries at Uxbridge last Sunday with 117 and 125 respectively to help Sri Lanka respond to the challenge of following on at Derby and eventually close day three on 392 for six.
The tourists, starting again 227 behind, reached stumps 165 in credit - meaning the Lions still have plenty to do to close out a victory which had looked a near formality 24 hours earlier.
Dilshan lived up to his counter-attacking billing with 17 fours and two sixes from only 110 balls as he dominated a double-century opening stand.
Tall left-hander Paranavitana provided the contrast and complement, in a more measured contribution which lasted 216 balls and contained 18 boundaries.
Among the Lions bowlers, Steven Finn was impressive in a testing mid-afternoon spell. He was rewarded with two wickets, and there was one each for his three frontline pace partners as well as Ravi Bopara.
Finn conceded 63 runs in 13 overs but said: “I felt very good. The figures don’t suggest that I bowled particularly well, but this is probably the best I’ve felt this season.
“This season I’ve felt a lot better than before, and a marked improvement on where I was in Australia.
“I’m open to criticism, and I didn’t bowl as well as I should or could have done in Australia. To come back on to home soil and have a chance to put that right has been great.
“I’ve been steady and consistent but haven’t quite had the eye-catching performances. But I feel far better about my cricket, and in a far better place than I did when I was in Australia.”
The hosts were wicketless this morning as Dilshan and Paranavitana coasted to 138, and the stand had reached exactly 200 when the captain finally went.
A seam attack which had bowled Sri Lanka out in little more than two sessions yesterday rarely came close to disturbing the openers before lunch.
They did not bowl particularly badly, on a pitch which appeared to have lost some of its bounce. But there were enough loose deliveries for Dilshan in particular to prosper, and not enough threatening ones to discomfort the opposition.
Paranavitana had a little good fortune on his side, squirting Jade Dernbach for one boundary perilously close to the slips shortly before reaching his half-century.
Dilshan, setting the pace, had one escape on 95 when Samit Patel put down his second catch of the match off Graham Onions - this time in the gully.
But Finn then got one to bounce on Dilshan, and wicketkeeper Jonathan Bairstow dived forward to take the catch.
Sri Lanka could be rightly heartened by their improved collective batting, but there will be some minor concern that their two heavyweight late arrivals from the Indian Premier League - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene - registered two more comparative failures.
Sangakkara was bowled leg-stump by Finn via a deflection between bat and pad, and Jayawardene lost his off-stump to a delivery from Ajmal Shahzad which appeared to keep low from short of a length.
Paranavitana’s vigil ended in mid-evening with a tired cut straight to point off Bopara, while likely Test selections Dinesh Chandimal and wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene remain short of runs.
The former edged Dernbach to Hildreth at slip, and Onions had his first wicket of the innings when Jaywardene gave the Lions captain some more catching practice.
Bairstow, apparently nursing some pain in his right hand, missed a chance to stump Thilan Samaraweera off Patel when the batsman had six to his name.
Samaraweera dug in thereafter to frustrate the Lions and finished unbeaten on 54, with first-innings success story Suraj Randiv also at the crease as the light deteriorated towards the end of the day.
Meanwhile, a scan on Sri Lanka spinner Ajantha Mendis’ Achilles pain has revealed no obvious injury.