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England in the driving seat as spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess rip through Sri Lanka’s top order

Joe Root breaks Sri Lanka’s bold counter-attack as hosts are all-out inside 36 overs – leaving England to chase a tricky 164 for a 2-0 series win

  • Leach and Bess tore through Sri Lanka’s top order to leave them reeling at lunch
  • Lasith Embuldenyia hit a quickfire 40 to wrestle back control for the hosts 
  • Joe Root took two quick wickets as Sri Lanka set England a tricky 164 to win
  • Spinners Leach and Bess took the other eight wickets, finishing with four apiece

England have been set a tricky target of 164 to win the second Test against Sri Lanka.

The spinners done the damage on day four as Jack Leach and Dom Bess took four apiece before Joe Root claimed the final two to dismiss Sri Lanka for 126.

The hosts looked in huge trouble at lunch when they were 67-6 but Lasith Embuldenyia led a bold counter attack as he hit a quickfire 40 – the highest score of his career in first-class cricket – to help Sri Lanka set England a tough chase.

Dom Bess starred with the ball in the opening session of day four to put England in control

Spinners Bess and Jack Leach took three wickets apiece to rip through Sri Lanka's top order

Spinners Bess and Jack Leach took three wickets apiece to rip through Sri Lanka’s top order

The pressure was on Leach and Bess, who had gone 64 overs without a single scalp in the first innings, and they responded in style by taking three apiece in a compelling opening passage of play before grabbing one each after lunch.

Leach had started the day with a bat in his hand but was pinned by Dilruwan Perera leaving England 344 all out.

His real job was still to come and he was back in the game after a token four overs of seam from James Anderson and Sam Curran. The left-armer sent down 228 balls without joy earlier in the match but struck gold with his second delivery here, Kusal Perera kneeling down in pursuit of a big slog sweep to fall lbw despite being struck on the midriff.

Bess took a little longer to find his radar but when he did, attacking the off-stump line with drift and turn, Oshada Fernando was only able to offer a bog standard bat-pad chance to Zak Crawley at short-leg. 

Sri Lanka's Oshada Fernando made just three runs before he was removed by Bess

Sri Lanka’s Oshada Fernando made just three runs before he was removed by Bess 

Leach celebrates with his England team-mates after taking a wicket on day four in Galle

Leach celebrates with his England team-mates after taking a wicket on day four in Galle

If that was an easy grab for Crawley, his next effort was a much tougher one, Lahiru Thirimanne flicking Leach cleanly off the face only for a sharp reaction grab as the Kent man stayed low under the helmet.

From 37 for three a collective madness took hold as the next three batsmen tried and failed to hack the team out of bother. Angelo Mathews, a persistent thorn in England’s side in this series and over several years, started proactively but paid the price quickly.

Trying to launch Bess over mid-wicket he was beaten through the air then lost his off stump as the ball spun sharply off the surface. Captain Dinesh Chandimal hit two boundaries off Leach but could not resist going for a third, launching a swirling catch up in the air as Anderson steadied himself before a nerveless take dropping over his shoulder.

Niroshan Dickwella, fresh from his career-best 92, then drilled Bess to Dan Lawrence at cover for the latest example of muddled thinking. Joe Root could have made the lunch equation even better but let a couple of chances slip at the end of the session, reprieving Ramesh Mendis and Dilruwan Perera.

If Root was ruing his drop off Dilruwan on nought, he did not have to worry for long.

The number eight made just four and fell to Bess’ third ball of the afternoon – turning his wrists on one and feeding Crawley his third catch of the day at short-leg.

Ramesh Mendis is looking to regain control for Sri Lanka after heading into lunch on 16 not out

Ramesh Mendis is looking to regain control for Sri Lanka after heading into lunch on 16 not out

England refused to let the momentum slip, picking up an eighth when debutant Mendis became the latest victim of a botched sweep.

He under-edged Leach straight into the toe of his boot, with Buttler alert enough behind the stumps to nip in front and gather safely. At 78 for eight, the tourists were only 115 behind.

Sri Lanka’s ninth-wicket pair offered some handy runs, Lasith Embuldeniya smashing Leach for four and six has he took 12 from the 30th over.

The innings total crept past 100 and then the lead nudged beyond 150 as the pressure eased off just a little.

Embuldeniya bettered his previous first-class best to reach a quick-fire 40 before Root’s gamble in bringing himself on paid off.

Working away from round the wicket, he had the tailender held at slip by Bairstow, who had already dropped a tougher chance.

Root finished things off with his very next ball, Asitha Fernando contriving to play into his own stumps for a golden duck.

Sri Lanka were 126 all out in 35.5 overs, leaving England chasing 164 for a 2-0 series win.

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