Day 3 finally saw something that has been missing from this entire series, a bit of fight from the Sri Lankan tourists. After we took the last two Sri Lankan first innings wickets in the morning, it could be genuinely feared that this contest wouldn’t last until Tea, such has been the fragility of the tourists batting line up, however thankfully there was no such repeat of the first innings.
The Sri Lankan batsmen did the basics well, left the ball outside off stump, moved their feet better, didn’t go lunging after the ball on a fifth stump line and scored runs when the loose deliveries came. As I said yesterday, there are absolutely no demons in this pitch, nor has there been any swing throughout the whole 3 days, which just shows how meek their first innings performance actually was. All of the Batsmen pretty much got a start except Karunaratne, who doesn’t seem to know where his stumps are, and Silva, Chandimal and particularly Matthews all looked good on a docile batting surface. There will be hopes in the Sri Lankan dressing room that Chandimal in particular can kick on tomorrow, as no doubt he is a decent batsmen, but in my opinion, he was batting two slots to high in the batting order in the first innings.
As for England, it was a frustrating kind of day. I think the bowlers almost expected Sri Lanka to roll over again and they seemed to lack the nip that they had in the first innings. They all bowled fairly tidily against a much-improved batting performance on a fairly placid pitch, but there wasn’t the same intensity as there was yesterday afternoon. . It could just be that being out in the field for 5 sessions has jaded them somewhat, however you guess they will want to remove Chandimal and Siriwardana fairly early with the new ball in the morning; otherwise another frustrating session tomorrow morning might be in order. I thought Moeen bowled well, including an absolute peach of a delivery to get rid of Thirimanne and Woakes again was the quickest of the seamers, but all in all it looked like a day for batting
As for the match situation, England are still massive favourites to win the game tomorrow from here; however if Sri Lanka can eek out another 200 runs or so then England might face a tricky chase as you would expect this pitch to start to deteriorate at some point over the next couple of days. Amusingly, Sri Lanka also have the opportunity to ruin the Cook 10,000 runs party penciled in for his mates at Lords, indeed the cynic in me would quite like to see him stride out to the middle chasing a target of around 12 or so in front of a half empty Chester-Le-Street, but that’s just my cynicism getting the better of me!
Day 4 comments below….