GALLE, Sri Lanka, (Reuters) - Left-arm spinner Jack Leach struck twice in the post-lunch session to help reduce Sri Lanka to 190 for five at tea as England inched closer to a comprehensive victory in the opening test on Friday.
Former captain Angelo Mathews was batting on 50 at the break, while Niroshan Dickwella was on 16, with Sri Lanka trying to avoid a defeat inside four days in Rangana Herath’s farewell test at the Galle International stadium.
Beginning day four on 15-0, Sri Lanka needed a solid start to prolong their battle without worrying about the enormousness of the improbable 462-run victory target.
Overnight batsmen Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva saw through the first hour without any damage, even if they had a little luck when the former edged Moeen Ali on 16 but Ben Stokes grassed an easy catch at slip.
Stokes was later subjected to a similar bowler’s agony when he could only watch as James Anderson dropped Mathews, who also made a half-century in the first innings, off his bowling.
Leach eventually made the breakthrough when Silva could not connect with a sweep shot and was rammed on the front pad to be dismissed leg before wicket for 30.
He was soon joined in the dressing room by Karunaratne, who charged down the pitch against Moeen and drove it straight back to the off-spinnner, gifting him his 150th test wicket.
Dhananjaya de Silva was then adjudged caught behind for 21 after a wild swing at a Stokes delivery, but the batsman successfully reviewed it to overturn the decision.
Not that it mattered.
On the very next delivery, he once again played away from his body and Joe Root pouched the edge in the slips.
Kusal Mendis added 46 with Mathews for the fourth wicket but, he too, could not convert a good start into a big innings and fell for 45.
Having charged down the track to hit Leach for a boundary on the previous delivery, Mendis tried to repeat the feat and ended up holing out to Moeen.
Leach (3-60) then bowled Dinesh Chandimal for one, the Sri Lanka captain struggling to move because of a hamstring injury.
The second match of the three-test series is in Kandy, starting on Nov. 14, before the final contest in Colombo from Nov. 23.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O'Brien