Dhammika Prasad took a four-wicket burst after after Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, had hit a magnificent hundred, to leave the visitors in sight of victory at the end of the fourth day of the second Test at Headingley.
England reached stumps on Monday (June 23) at 57 for 5, with nightwatchman Liam Plunkett dismissed in what what was to be the last over of the day. At close, England still needed a further 293 runs for victory with Joe Root unbeaten on 6.
History is on Sri Lanka’s side. England’s highest fourth-innings chase is 332 against Australia at Melbourne in 1928-29. Interestingly, only Australia has made more in the fourth innings to win a Test at Headingley, when it made 404 for 3 against England in 1948.
Sri Lanka had held out for a draw in the first Test at Lord’s and a win here would be the side’s first series win on English soil, where the side has won only two Tests previously.
Prasad’s strikes ensured Sri Lanka winning was the most likely outcome. Brought into the XI in place of Nuwan Kulasekara, he reaped the rewards after pitching the ball up. He was the fifth bowler that Mathews used, but struck twice in his very first over. He first induced Alastair Cook to bottom edge a pull onto the stumps off his third ball, while a full length delivery that swung back in had Gary Ballance trapped in front off the next ball. Ian Bell, playing in his 100th Test, prevented a hat-trick, but it didn’t take long for Prasad to have his third.
Sam Robson, who scored his maiden Test ton in the first innings, was pouched by Mahela Jayawardene at second slip for 24. Prasad then surpassed his previous Test best of 3 for 82 against Pakistan in Colombo six years ago when he squared up Bell with a fine delivery that clipped the top of offstump to leave England struggling at 52 for 4.
Plunkett then chipped a gentle catch to cover off Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner, for a duck, as Sri Lanka walked off the field in jubilation.
Earlier in the day, it was Mathews’s century that was the centerpiece of Sri Lanka’s second-innings total of 457. It was only his fourth century in 40 Tests, but third since he became captain last year. It was also his highest Test score, surpassing the 157 not out he made against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi last year, and it meant Mathews had set new personal Test-bests with both bat and ball in this match after he returned figures of 4 for 44 in England’s first innings.
Mathews received excellent support from Herath, who made 48 in a record eighth-wicket stand of 149. The pair were only separated at the stroke of tea when Mathews, in search of a single for his 150, sent back Herath back only for him to be run out by Root’s direct hit from mid-on at the non-striker’s end.
Mathews did give a chance on 87 when Plunkett dropped a hard-hit return catch.
Sri Lanka resumed the day on 214 for 4, a lead of 106, with Jayawardene unbeaten on 55, along with Mathews, who was on 24. The two put on 92, before Jayawardene was out for a typically elegant 79 in what was probably his last Test innings in England.
Sri Lanka then lost two wickets in two deliveries, but the tail rallied around Mathews. The Sri Lankan captain’s impressive innings of more than five hours spanned 247 balls and had 25 fours and a six.
(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)