Mathews continues Sri Lanka resistance

LEEDS: Angelo Mathews led spirited Sri Lanka resistance as they continued to make England fight every inch of the way in an engrossing second Test at Headingley that will decide the destiny of the series. Mathews was unbeaten on 79 at lunch and Sri Lanka’s lead of 203 was beginning to take on a disturbing look for England.

Only three sides have successfully chased more than 200 to win a Test at Headingley, but those statistics do not reflect the nature of this Headingley pitch. These days, Headingley can go flat just as easily as it can dance to the tune of overcast skies. It could just as easily awaken for the medium pace of Mathews or the spin of Herath, but as Sri Lanka batted on it, it greeted their efforts with magnanimity.

England made unimpressive use of the second new ball as they struggled to come to terms with the fact that the Headingley surface, by and large, was in a contented mood. Certainly the pitch was more contented than Anderson who in theory should be a Headingley matchwinner when the ball swings but who has never come entirely to terms with the ground.

Sri Lanka’s lead on the resumption was only 106. To advance it to 203 for the loss of three wickets was an outcome that would have given them slightly more satisfaction than England – even if there was a reckless feel to the loss of Dinesh Chandimal and Dhammika Prasad in successive balls.

England had seven overs to wait until the new ball became due, and had to wait a further seven overs before Anderson, whose line was awry, removed Mahela Jaywardene. Jayawardene was dropped off Stuart Broad by Ian Bell in the gully on 79, but did not make good his let off as Anderson finally found the right Headingley length and Jayawardene, driving at a ball which shaped away, edged to Prior

It is possible that this was the last Test innings in England for both Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene and, if so, it was an appealing statistical quirk to find that both finished the series locked together on 11,493 Test runs.

The breach finally made, England then dismissed Chandimal and Prasad in successive balls. In a Test where catching opportunities have been regularly spurned, both fell to moments of good athleticism by two Yorkshire fielders, much to the taste of the small but partisan crowd.

Plunkett’s short-ball assault at Chandimal, from around the wicket, was undisguised and when Chandimal responded with the hook Gary Ballance took a good, diving catch at deep square leg.

Prasad opted for the uppercut – a shot of some ambition to the first ball he received – and Joe Root gathered another excellent catch, this time at third man, clinging to the ball precariously in outstretched fingers before he was able to celebrate the catch. Sri Lanka had lost three wickets for nine runs in 16 balls.

Herath’s arrival was the signal for Mathews to extend his range. A length ball from Plunkett was flicked for six and Anderson, his Headingley record showing few signs of improvement, conceded successive boundaries. Herath dug in manfully, leaving Sri Lanka in good spirits at the interval.