Sam Robson’s maiden Test century helped England nudge ahead, but late strikes helped Sri Lanka fight back on the second day of the second Test at Headingley on Saturday (June 21).
England went into stumps at 320 for 6 in reply to Sri Lanka’s 257, a lead of 63, after Robson made 127 in only his second Test.
England, cruising along at 311 for 3 at one stage, suddenly lost three wickets in the space of four overs, with Shaminda Eranga, the pacer, doing bulk of the damage. Matt Prior (3 not out) and Chris Jordan (4 not out) then negotiated a tricky five-over passage, much to England’s relief.
England resumed the day on 36 without loss after Sri Lanka was bowled out in just 69.1 overs on Friday, with Liam Plunkett, playing in front of his home crowd, taking 5 for 64. He was complemented by Stuart Broad, who became the first England bowler to take two Test hat-tricks. Broad dismissed Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal and Eranga, to finish with 3 for 46 in 15 overs.
Sri Lanka picked up the early wicket of England captain, Alastair Cook, who added just three runs to his overnight 14. Cook poked at an away-going delivery from Dhammika Prasad to Sangakkara at slip to leave him searching for his first Test century since compiling the last of his England-record 25 hundreds at Headingley last year.
But Robson, unbeaten on 21 overnight, looked solid and negated Sri Lanka’s threat admirably. Particularly striking was his technique against left-arm spinner, Rangana Herath, who went wicketless after 25 overs of toil. Robson was well supported by Gary Ballance.
Ballance, fresh from a maiden Test ton at Lord’s made 74 in a 142-run second wicket stand that threatened to take the game away from Sri Lanka. But it wasn’t a smooth sail for Ballance, at least initially. The left-hander survived a close leg before shout off Herath soon after the lunch interval.
Umpire Billy Bowden, upheld Sri Lanka’s appeal only for England to challenge. But, Ballance was given a reprieve when the Decision Review System indicated the ball would have spun past leg stump. Ballance had another reprieve when he was dropped on 61 by Kaushal Silva at short leg.
With England cruising along at 183 for 1 in 65 overs, Sri Lanka captain, Angelo Mathews brought himself on and struck to dismiss Ballance in his second over.
Robson, unbeaten on 98 at tea, then brought up three figures and then subsequently lofted Herath over long-on for six. But his vigil came to an end shortly after Sri Lanka took the second new ball, as he was bowled through the gate by Nuwan Pradeep to end the 253-ball knock.
Bell, playing in his 100th Test had got off to a start and looked in glorious form, till he was caught behind for 64 while attempting a glance off Eranga. Four balls later, Mathews struck again when Joe Root fell trying to open the phase of the bat, only to be caught behind by Dinesh Chandimal.
Mathews could have had a third wicket had he managed to hold on to a tough return catch offered by Prior on nought. But Sri Lanka didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough as Moeen Ali, playing away from his body, edged Eranga to give Chandimal his fourth catch of the innings.
(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)