Galle: Wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene hit an unbeaten half century to frustrate the England bowlers before Sri Lanka were finally dismissed for 214 in their second innings on the third day of the first test on Wednesday.
England were left 340 to win, a record chase on the ground, and at tea they had reached 27 for no loss with Andrew Strauss (14) and Alastair Cook (13) at the crease.
Sri Lanka’s last two wickets made it an even more difficult run chase for England as they added valuable 87 runs.
England, who needed to get the remaining five Sri Lanka wickets early on Wednesday after conceding a big first innings lead, were kept on the field till mid-afternoon before they finally dismissed the hosts.
The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper batsman proved to be a thorn in the England flesh as he batted for 123 balls to score an undefeated 61 with the help of three fours and three sixes.
He got vital support from tailenders Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal, who each contributed 13 runs.
The pair helped Jayawardene stitch together partnerships of 40 for the ninth wicket and 47 for the last as England bowlers toiled hard.
The second new ball was taken as soon as it was available after 80 overs but did not yield any results.
Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar eventually got rid of Welegedara when he had him caught at the gully by Strauss.
Lakmal’s 29-ball resistance ended with a run out as he attempted a second run to give Jayawardene the strike but failed to beat Kevin Pietersen’s throw from deep mid-wicket to the bowler.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann finished with figures of six for 82 off 30 overs, his 12th five-wicket haul in tests while Panesar picked up two for 59.
In hot and humid conditions in Galle, Swann bowled unchanged for 15 overs in the morning session to add two wickets to his overnight tally before being relieved shortly before lunch.
Panesar got the first breakthrough of the morning when he dismissed Dinesh Chandimal (31), who went for an inside out shot but only managed to scoop the ball for Kevin Pietersen to complete an easy catch at mid-off.
His dismissal ended a 42-run sixth wicket stand with Suraj Randiv (18).
Swann then got in the act by trapping Randiv lbw and the bowling out Rangana Herath (7), but Jayawardene and Welegedara denied England any further success.