2nd Test, Tea: Joe Root nears ton as England’s lead swells
England skipper Joe Root remains two short of a 15th Test century. (AFP Image)

Joe Root, the England captain, scored his 42nd Test fifty and remains two short of a 15th century to help his side move its score to 259/6, with a lead of 213 over Sri Lanka at tea on Day 3 of the second Test in Pallekele. Root and Ben Foakes have batted to add unbeaten 40 runs for the sixth wicket as England solidified their position in the match.

Sri Lanka’s spinners, who had shown promise in the first session, took out two wickets in the session but England continued to score at a healthy rate with Root leading the way. For the second consecutive session, England scored over 100 runs with the second period of play resulting in 128 runs.

After Sri Lanka had England on the backfoot at 109 for 4, Root and Jos Buttler attempted to stage a recovery, which they were able to with an important 74-run stand for the fifth wicket, Buttler, similar to his approach in the first innings, did not hold back on his reverse sweeps, But after getting three boundaries, the same shot led to his downfall as Buttler played one on to Akila Dhananjaya.

Moeen Ali cracked a six but he endured another failure after falling leg before wicket to give Dhananjaya his third wicket. At 219 for 6, England were ahead but needed to strengthen their position even further to ensure a result in their favour. And who better to rise to the occasion than the England captain himself. Root, who had helped himself to three boundaries till lunch, added seven more. Back-to-back boundaries off Malinda Pushpakumara brought up his half-century. Root switched gears and tonked Dhananjaya and Dilruwan Perera for a couple of maximums to enter the 90s. With Root going strong at one end, Foakes had the time to play himself in with 19 off 44 balls.

Earlier, England managed to head into the lead but lost four wickets to spin in the first session. Rory Burns struck his maiden half-century but fell moments before the interval Sri Lanka’s spinners weren’t at their best but the pitch still offering plenty of assistance, they did just about enough to seize control.

Having safely played out the one over yesterday, Jack Leach was the first England wicket to fall, out leg before wicket to Dilruwan Perera. At 4 for 1, Burns and Keaton Jennings staged a nice recovery and added 53 runs for the second wicket. The confidence of the first Test, where Jennings scored a century and a fifty was visible in his approach as the batsman kept playing the sweep and the reverse to score at a healthy pace.

Sri Lanka leaked boundaries with Burns exhibiting an authoritative period of play. Occasionally, Perera and Dananjaya were too short and the opener cashed in almost everytime. He scored seven boundaries and with Jennings got a move on that was evident from the fact that England scored 127 runs in the session. Jennings, who has been mostly effective with his reverse sweep, fell to his favoured shot. As the ball grew big on him, Jennings offered his gloves and was taken by de Silva at slip.

England didn’t look much in trouble at 108 for 2, but two wickets in four deliveries brought Sri Lanka right back into the match. First, Burns, having played so well, was declared out LBW by Pushpakumara, a review not able to save him. Next over, England’s experiment to send Ben Stokes up the order failed to click for the second time in the match as the allrounder, trying to sweep Perera was trapped plumb in front for a duck.

Brief scores: England 290 and 259/6 (Joe Root 98,*Rory Burns 59; Akila Dhanajyaya 3 for 3 for 77) lead Sri Lanka 336, by 213 runs.