England go into the fifth and final day of the Investec Test series with their backs against the wall, needing an unlikely 293 runs to win the series with only five wickets remaining at Headingley.
England endured one of their most frustrating days in the field in recent times until they eventually bowled Sri Lanka out for a mammoth 457 with the clock at 4.25pm in the evening session.
However, things didn’t get better with the bat as they ended five wickets down for just 57 runs, chasing 350 with Joe Root at the crease and the only recognised batsman still to join the Yorkshireman will be Matt Prior in the morning after a disastrous day in Leeds.
James Anderson struck in the morning session to remove Mahela Jayawardene for 79 before Liam Plunkett matched his first innings feat of taking wickets in consecutive balls.
Dinesh Chandimal was on seven when he hit the ball out to Plunkett’s Yorkshire team mate Gary Ballance on the boundary while the next ball found another familiar face with Joe Root taking the catch to remove Dhammika Prasad at third man.
However, that was when the trouble started for the England team because Mathews was joined by tail-ender Rangana Herath who shared a partnership 149 which lasted over 36 overs in the Leeds sunshine.
In that time the Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews soared past his century in a fantastic innings as the momentum quickly drifted away from England. Mathews ended on 160 which is the fourth highest score by a Test captain at Headingley with Moeen Ali catching the skipper off the bowling of Anderson to leave the score at 437-9 following Root running out Herath on the stroke of tea.
Number 10 Shaminda Eranga added a valuable 20 in the last stand before Anderson removed Nuwan Prandeep to set England a record breaking target of 350 for victory. The hosts record run chase in the Test arena is 332 which they achieved in 1928-29 so they had to go 18 better than that to win the Investec Test series 1-0 after the Lord’s draw last week.
However, that record looks relatively safe leading into day five after England’s top four all fell to fast bowler Prasad despite the hosts getting off to a solid start at 39-0. They were soon reduced to 57-5 as Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance, Sam Robson and Ian Bell on his 100th Test were sat back in the pavilion with their game over.
Plunkett was then boosted up the order to join Joe Root whilst protecting Matt Prior but that experiment didn’t last long with the lower order batsman looping a Herath delivery into the off-side which was duly caught by Prandeep for a 12 ball duck.
That brought the end of play on a hugely disappointing day for England who are starring down the barrel of a defeat which would mean they are now eight Test Matches without a victory, their longest winless run since the 90s.