LEEDS - Kumar Sangakkara scored a world record equalling half century as Sri Lanka reached 214-4 at the end of the third day to leave the second Test against England delicately poised on Sunday.
The stylish Sangakkara became only the fourth player in Test history to score seven successive half centuries as Sri Lanka threatened to take control but he fell for 55 as England took two late wickets to stall the visitors' progress. Having earlier polished off England's first innings for 365, Sri Lanka ended the day 106 runs ahead.
Sangakkara, who joined Everton Weekes, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and former England coach Andy Flower to score seven consecutive Test 50s, shared a 79-wicket third-wicket partnership with Mahela Jayawardene (55 not out). Part-time spinner Moeen Ali took two late wickets, however. Having reached tea on 99-2, nine runs behind, Sri Lanka needed little time moving into credit as Sangakkara continued his fluent play with a trademark drive to the boundary.
After watching Sri Lanka's bowlers get good movement on the flat Headingley pitch, England's attack toiled as they struggled to find the right line and length to trouble the Sri Lanka duo. With England desperate to break the partnership, captain Alastair Cook turned to Ali and the change of bowling brought about immediate rewards as he had Sangakkara trapped lbw for 55.
Within minutes Ali had his second wicket, beating Lahiru Thirimanne with a lofted ball that spun past the batsman's tentative prod to remove his bails for a second duck of the match. England continued to press but the determined Jayawardene reached his 48th test match 50. Sri Lanka negotiated the final 45 minutes of the day without any more setbacks, but only after surviving reviews from both Ali and Liam Plunkett who himself had taken two wickets in the afternoon session.
Resuming the day on 320 for six, England were torn apart by the Sri Lankan bowling attack with captain Mathews taking test-best figures of 4-44 and Shaminda Eranga taking 4-93. Sri Lanka needed just one hour of the morning session to bowl the hosts out as England added just 45 runs to their overnight score, losing their last eight wickets for 87 runs. In response James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Jordan struggled to trouble the Sri Lanka openers, prompting Cook to bring Liam Plunkett into the attack. The Yorkshire-seamer, who claimed test-best figures of 5-64 in the first innings, quickly accounted for Kaushal Silva (13). Sangakkara made a streaky 79 in the first innings but the elegant left-hander was quickly into his stride with three sumptuous drives to the cover boundary. At the other end Karunaratne (45) quietly accumulated runs but he became Plunkett's second victim shortly before tea, gloving the aggressive bowler to Prior down the leg side.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene threatened to carry the game away from England but Ali's late wickets restored parity with the match poised intriguingly heading into day four. The first Test of the two-match series ended in a draw at Lord's last week.
SRI LANKA 1ST INNINGS: 257
ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:
A Cook c Sangakkara b Prasad 17
S Robson b Pradeep 127
G Ballance c Chandimal b Mathews 74
I Bell c Chandimal b Eranga 64
J Root c Chandimal b Mathews 13
M Ali c Chandimal b Eranga 2
M Prior not out 27
C Jordan c Jayawardene b Eranga 17
S Broad c Thirimanne b Mathews 4
L Plunkett b Mathews 2
J Anderson c and b Eranga 0
EXTRAS: (lb2, w3, nb13) 18
TOTAL: (all out, 115.5 overs) 365
FOW: 1-49, 2-191, 3-278, 4-311, 5-311, 6-313, 7-338, 8-344, 9-350, 10-365
BOWLING: Pradeep 22-3-90-1; Eranga 32.5-10-93-4; Herath 25-3-61-0; Prasad 20-3-75-1; Mathews 16-4-44-4
SRI LANKA 2ND INNINGS:
D Karunaratne c Prior b Plunkett 45
K Silva c Prior b Plunkett 13
K Sangakkara lbw b Ali 55
M Jayawardene not out 55
L Thirimanne lbw b Ali 0
A Mathews not out 24
EXTRAS: (b5, lb8, w6, nb3) 22
TOTAL: (4 wkts, 73 overs) 214
FOW: 1-40, 2-93, 3-172, 4-176
BOWLING: Anderson 12-3-32-0; Broad 18-5-51-0; Jordan 19-6-41-0; Plunkett 15-1-51-2; Ali 9-0-26-2
UMPIRES: Steve Davis (AUS), Billy Bowden (NZL)