Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene said England failed to handle the pressure on the fourth day of the second and final test on Monday and questioned the way home captain Alastair Cook had handled recent criticism.
England, chasing 350 to win, were staring defeat in the face at the close of play on 57 for five after Dhammika Prasad grabbed four wickets during a fiery spell of fast bowling.
Earlier, a test-best 160 from skipper Angelo Mathews helped Sri Lanka amass a second-innings total of 457 after starting the day in a tricky position on 212 for four.
"We've seen that under pressure they (England) are not quite up to it," said Jayawardene after having chipped in with a typically cultured knock of 79. "They were quite chirpy but they quietened down after the first hour. We know who's on top and who's not," he told reporters at Headingley.
Cook, on the receiving end of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash at the beginning of the year, has been criticised by former Australia great Shane Warne who branded the captain as "boring" and "unimaginative".
The out-of-form opening batsman made only 16 on Monday and is now without a test hundred for 24 innings. Former Sri Lanka skipper Jayawardene questioned the way Cook had responded to the recent criticism from Warne who is a regular pundit on Sky Sports television. "I feel for Alastair but it doesn't help arguing with commentators," he said. "That is something you can't control.
"You just need to control the things you can control out there and that is perform and carry your team through. I'm a great believer in forgetting things you can't control."
Jayawardene heaped praise on Mathews' knock and said, "Angelo batted really well in that situation, safeguarding the tail and taking the opportunity to go for those big shots when the field was in. He didn't have to take too many risks when the field was back, but whenever he needed to take a risk, he did. In that context, that showed that they were on the back foot and we just needed to drive that advantage we had forward."
However, Ian Bell, the England vice-captain and playing in his 100th Test backed Cook and said that the team will back the England skipper despite staring at a potential series defeat. Speaking in The Telegraph, Bell said that the tactics that England adopted during Mathews' knock of 160 was wrong. "If you want to stop somebody like that scoring runs you get them out don't you, you don't try and stop them from scoring runs," he said. (business insider)