England moved to 8/11 to draw the series in Sri Lanka after efficient bowling and a dominant opening partnership from Alastair Cook and skipper Andrew Straus put them in control of the second Test in Columbo, closing the day on 154/1.
England have lost four consecutive Tests and losing a fifth for the first time since the Ashes in 2006 would result in the loss of their world number one ranking.
The quality of England’s bowling line up has never been in doubt and Graeme Swann took three wickets in the morning session to finish with four, to add to his six in the second innings at Galle, as England took the four remaining wickets for just 38 runs.
The real positive for Strauss’ men was that the batsmen finally came to the party. Strauss himself has been struggling of late and surpassed 50 for only the second time this winter on his way to 61.
Strauss put on a 122-run opening stand with Cook, who went on to finish the day on 77 and is priced at 2/5 to complete his 20th Test hundred.
Jonathan Trott, a centurion in the last Test, joined Cook at the crease and made his way to 15 at the close and the number three batsmen is 4/5 to bring up his 50 or 3/1 to go on and notch another unorthodox century, as he has in seven of the 27 Tests he has been involved in.
The Sri Lankans, now priced at 3/1 for the win, will be looking for a much better day in the field and will hope to tear through the England batting line-up as they did in the first Test when England’s final six batsmen were dismissed for 31 runs.
The wicket has done very little in the first couple of days, but as the Test wears on there will undoubtedly be something there for the likes of Rangana Herath, who will be eager for wickets after he dominated the first Test, taking 12 wickets in all.