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Sri Lanka spinners hit back after Burns-Jennings stand


Sri Lanka clawed their way back into the Pallekele Test with late wickets in the morning session on Day 3 after Rory Burns’s fifty propelled England into lead in the second innings. Burns and Keaton Jennings combined for a 73-run partnership for the second wicket to help England comfortably wipe off the 46-run deficit, but the Sri Lankan spinners struck thrice in quick succession before Lunch.

Nightwatchman Jack Leach fell as early as in the second over of the morning, looking to sweep a straighter one from Dilruwan Perera but missing his shot and getting struck in front of middle stump. The on-field umpire was unmoved but Sri Lanka’s confident review got them what would be their only success in the next hour.

Like most batsmen have on this wicket, Burns and Jennings too found success through sweeps. The duo took the attack to the Sri Lankan spinners and did not let them settle in. The immediate target for England was to erase Sri Lanka’s first-innings deficit and Burns got his team across that hurdle with the first of his back to back boundaries off Dilruwan, prompting Suranga Lakmal to take the offpsinner off.

Dhananjaya de Silva managed to break the threatening stand as Jennings fell trying another one of his reverse sweeps that had got him success, only to glove it to first slip. Lakmal brought on Malinda Pushpakumara as soon as Joe Root arrived in the middle, but the English skipper got on top of the left-arm spinner with an authoritative sweep to the unmanned midwicket fence for his first boundary.

Sweeping merrily since the morning, Burns got to his maiden Test half-century off 61 deliveries with a similar shot to the square leg fence. By the end of the over, England’s lead had touched fifty too. Pushpakumara could not trouble Root much but did manage to take out Burns soon after, who also fell after missing a sweep. With that, he also consumed England’s first review with an unsuccessful appeal.

Both teams, in fact, wasted their last remaining DRS call in the over Dilruwan was brought back on for the new batsman Ben Stokes. The England all-rounder became the latest of England spinners to miss a sweep and was adjudged LBW.

Buttler, as in the first innings on the opening day, brought a sense of urgency and hit two quick boundaries in his unbeaten 14. Along with Root, he took England’s lead to 85 in a frenetic session that saw 131 runs and four wickets.

Brief scores: England 290 and 131/4 (Rory Burns 59, Joe Root 26*; Dilruwan Perera 2-40) lead Sri Lanka 336, by 85 runs.

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