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Sangakkara milestone leads Sri Lanka reply

David Hopps | ESPNcricinfo
June 14, 2014
Kumar Sangakkara put his name on the Lord's honours board with a composed century © Getty Images
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Sri Lanka 415 for 7 (Sangakkara 147, Mathews 79*, Jayawardene 55) trail England 575 for 9 dec by 160 runs
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Kumar Sangakkara had never made a Test century at Lord's; he has now and judging by his reaction he will cherish it forever. Whether it has saved the game, though, remains to be seen. Sri Lanka bowled along for much of the day but, still 160 runs behind with only three wickets remaining, their work is far from done.

A docile Lord's surface was an opportunity almost too good to be true. Perhaps this was Sangakkara's last chance - although the same was suggested the last time he was in England for a Test series. He is in no rush to give it up, not on the field at Lord's on the third day of the first Test, not yet in terms of his career, certainly not in terms of his life. He is a driven man.

It all did come to an end though, as far as his innings was concerned, midway through an elongated final session. He had made 147 when Moeen Ali took his first Test wicket courtesy of an alert catch behind the stumps by Matt Prior, optimism entrenched despite much evidence to the contrary.

Sangakkara castigated himself for missing out on a wide one. A kinder verdict was that Moeen had enticed a little turn and bounce from an unsympathetic surface. As an allrounder (a second spinner, in truth) asked to fulfil a role of specialist - and with Graeme Swann's retirement still fresh in the mind - he had bowled with control and he deserved kindness.

Sangakkara will prefer to reflect upon that Lord's century. When he righted the omission, driving Root on the up through cover, his old pal Mahela Jayawardene was observing the moment from 22 yards away. Jayawardene's delighted cling around his throat momentarily disconcerted him, strangling him more than the England attack ever did.

Sri Lanka might have saved the follow-on, but they are not yet out of danger. Whatever befalls these sides over the last two days this Lord's pitch has not been conducive to a thrilling contest between bat and ball. A young buck, Joe Root, made a double hundred on it for England, and Sangakkara, more than 13 years his senior, was equally sharp-sighted at taking the opportunity.

It needed the most enterprising innings of the match, however, an unbeaten 79 from the captain, Angelo Mathews, to enhance Sangakkara's work as England made inroads with two wickets with the second new ball and persisted gamely to add three more in the final session.

Once again, though, a laggardly over rate did not serve the game. The extra half hour is now regarded as an entitlement not an occasional safeguard. Sri Lanka were primarily responsible for a six-over deficit on the second day; England entirely culpable for a six-over deficit on the third. The umpires stand there like coat stands and the ICC fails to address the issue. When will this careless destruction of Test cricket ever be addressed?

Sri Lanka still had much to do at start of play, even from the stability of 140 for 1. No matter how benign the pitch, their first target was to pass the follow-on figure of 375 and that task dominated their thoughts for most of the day.

At tea they remained 67 runs short, three more wickets surrendered: Kaushal Silva for a judicious 63 in the morning; Jayawardene, not quite at his best in making 55, and Lahiru Thirimanne in the afternoon.

Sangakkara's individual target would also have moved him. When he made his first hundred in a Test in England, at the Rose Bowl on Sri Lanka's last tour in 2011, it was widely assumed to be his parting gift to England. Now he was back at Lord's, his career still fully operative, a serious adversary, taking his batting average in England away from the low thirties. That preparation in a short spell at Durham, England's most northerly county, seems all the more valuable now.

It was a moody morning with floodlights piercing the gloom and showers occasionally crossing the ground. At times it was a surprise that the umpires did not take the players from the field, if only to protect the pitch. MCC members gazed at the skies as if in mild rebuke. They gazed with equal disgust at a series of power cuts in the afternoon. They happen far too often at Lord's but such is the status of the ground that nobody seems even to raise an eyebrow.

England's hope that the overhead conditions might make batting more challenging never materialised. They experimented with a 7-2 off-side field to Sangakkara. Liam Plunkett tried some short stuff now and then, to little avail.

From the moment Sangakkara, 32 not out overnight, drove the third ball of the day, from James Anderson, through cover point off the front foot, he was attuned to his task, pushing well forward on a slow surface. This was easier than his defiant hundred under growling skies on Sri Lanka's last tour.

When Silva edged Anderson - driving, too - the ball died well in front of Alastair Cook at first slip. It conveyed that the slip cordon, as close as it could sensibly be, was barely in the game. But Silva departed in the ninth over of the morning, for 63. Not for the first time in this Test, he was a batsman dismissed by a well-directed bouncer. He was taken by Anderson and even though Silva ducked, he left his bat in the combat zone and an edge flew through to Matt Prior.

Jayawardene almost fell for 0, inside-edging Anderson past his stumps. Instead, Sri Lanka's old masters compiled 126 together - their 17th stand of more than 100. Only Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have more 100-plus stands in Tests.

Jayawardene, too, may not grace the Test arena for much longer. Stuart Broad dismissed him with the second over of the second new ball, finding some movement back in to strike him on both pads. Jayawardene reviewed it, but the replay was pretty damning.

Thirimanne, a left-hander discomfited by inswing, just has to look at Anderson for his balance to go awry. If he was ever seen with Anderson on a narrow mountain pass, it would be polite to call the emergency services before he toppled into the valley below. His was a soft dismissal, a tempting delivery around leg stump which he punted to Sam Robson at midwicket.

England's pace attack became footsore just as the Sri Lankans had before them. For Plunkett, selected as a shock bowler, to find a shock-absorber pitch must have been galling. But Cook's captaincy showed more inventiveness than has often been the case. Plunkett's dismissal of Prasanna Jayawardena, courtesy of a fast catch by Ian Bell at leg slip was a prime example. Add the wicket of Nuwan Kulasekara two overs from the close and England had shaded the day.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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