LONDON: Gary Ballance came to England’s rescue with a maiden Test hundred after Sri Lanka threatened to seize control at Lord’s yesterday.
England were 267 for eight in their second innings at stumps on the fourth day of the first Test, a lead of 389 runs.
The 24-year-old Ballance, entrusted with the key number three position in only his second Test, was 104 not out after going to his century in the last over of the day with a six off spinner Rangana Herath.
Left-hander Ballance had earlier added 78 for the seventh wicket with debutant Chris Jordan after a top-order collapse.
Sri Lanka now needed to surpass the highest fourth innings total to win a Test at Lord’s -- 344 for one, requiring 342, by the West Indies against England in 1984 -- if they were to go 1-0 up in this two-match series.
Things looked very different for England as they slumped to 121 for six after Shaminda Eranga took three quick wickets and left-armer Herath followed up with a quick double strike of his own on the way to figures of four for 95 in 23 overs. It was a collapse witnessed by Kevin Pietersen, watching from a sponsor’s box at Lord’s, with the South Africa-born batsman, England’s all-time leading run-scorer across all formats, ditched after the 5-0 Ashes drubbing in Australia.
But two more players originally from overseas in Ballance (Zimbabwe) and Jordan (Barbados) kept Sri Lanka at bay.
Both attacks in this match had been frustrated by a docile Lord’s pitch.
Eranga though defied the sluggish surface with a spell of three wickets for three runs in 21 balls.
England captain Alastair Cook was caught behind for 28 before Australia-born Robson completed an unsuccessful England debut on his Middlesex home ground by being bowled off the inside edge for 19. Eranga dismissed Bell in similar fashion to leave England 69 for three.
Sri Lanka resumed the day’s play on 415 for seven, having avoided the follow-on thanks mainly to Kumar Sangakkara’s 147 on Saturday.
Captain Angelo Mathews, 79 not out overnight, went to a well-deserved century. when he cover-drove a James Anderson full-toss for four.
But one ball after reaching three figures, Mathews was lbw to fast bowler Liam Plunkett for 102.
He batted for just under four hours and faced 172 ballswith Sri Lanka eventually all out for 453 to give England a first-innings lead of 122.AFP