Trott doubles up as Bell shines
Jonathan Trott - again - and Ian Bell were the biggest beneficiaries as England condemned Sri Lanka to another chastening day in the field at Cardiff.
Trott converted his overnight 125 into a sterling 203, the second double century of his Test career but one which perhaps serves as the greatest example of his apparently unquenchable thirst for runs.
Bell, meanwhile, helped himself to a sprightly unbeaten 98 on a truncated day that ended with England 491 for five and boasting a lead of 91.
Although this game is seemingly destined to end in a draw, the positive manner in which Bell - and, late on, Eoin Morgan - batted suggested England have not entirely ruled out the prospect of mounting an improbable victory push tomorrow.
The hundred that Bell’s pleasing strokeplay warranted may have to wait until the morning, but he, Trott and Alastair Cook, who finally fell for 133 today, have done much to demonstrate the scale of the task facing Sri Lanka this summer.
Today followed much the same pattern as yesterday, with initial success for the tourists after a rain-delayed start merely heralding another sizeable England partnership.
While Cook and Trott’s 251-run stand for the third wicket was finally broken shortly after the resumption today, Trott and Bell joined forces to add 160 for the fifth once Kevin Pietersen had fallen cheaply.
Sri Lanka have mustered just five wickets in 153 overs in this match - 63 of which were bowled today - yet it is the benign nature of the pitch which is likely to ensure the teams head to Lord’s on Friday with the series all square.
Given the game situation, Trott’s occupation of the crease was all the more remarkable. His approach to batting borders on monastic, and it was only after he breached 200 did he allow any element of risk to enter his thinking.
England resumed at 2.30pm on 287 for two, following the loss of the morning session for the third time in four days.
Stymied by a combination of Cook and Pietersen’s downfall in quick succession, Sri Lanka’s accuracy and their containing tactics, Trott was becalmed but in control for much of the afternoon.
Cook had added just four to his overnight score when he was caught behind via outside edge as he chased a short, wide one from Farveez Maharoof six overs in.
It represented Sri Lanka’s first success in almost 74 overs, and Maharoof’s obvious relief was no doubt shared by his colleagues.
Pietersen fell lbw to Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner, moments later. Attempting to cut one that kept low, he was afforded the benefit of the doubt by umpire Billy Doctrove given that there was plenty of bat involved, but the decision was overturned on the basis of video evidence that suggested, but did not prove, the ball clipped his back pad first.
Bell marked his arrival at the crease with a towering straight six out of the ground at Herath’s expense, although he saw Kumar Sangakkara spill a sharp chance to his left at gully off the persevering Maharoof on 20.
He continued to mix good fortune with typically immaculate drives and cuts, and was in confident enough mood to unfurl a couple of reverse-sweep-cum-switch-hits after registering an 88-ball half-century.
Trott, who struck a solitary boundary in a 23-over afternoon session, pressed on unerringly, punching Suranga Lakmal past mid-on to usurp Graham Gooch’s 172 as the highest score by an Englishman against Sri Lanka.
The double century was never in doubt - fittingly, a single into the leg side took him to the milestone - and he had faced 409 balls and struck 17 fours during the best part of two days when he was finally bowled making room to Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Sri Lanka’s reward: the sight of Morgan, who made 193 for England Lions against them last week, on his way to the middle.
Tickets for the final day of the Test are £15 for adults and £5 for children.