Joe Root's marathon 186 took England closer to Sri Lanka's total, with the visitors behind by 42 runs at close of play on Day 3 of the Galle Test. Meanwhile, Lasith Embuldeniya was the star performer for Sri Lanka, bagging seven wickets.
At the start of the final session, England were in a spot of bother with the score reading 252/6. However, Dom Bess gave Root valuable support, with the duo sharing an 81-run stand in just over 28 overs. The pair began on a cautious note and it was only in the 93rd over when Bess tried to play with freedom, top-edging a hook off Suranga Lakmal.
Root then brought up his 150 with his trademark sweep by playing against the turn. Root continued to deal in sweeps and reverse sweeps, and collected yet another boundary off Embuldeniya in the 100th over. Such was his mastery over the conditions that when he was beaten in the very next over that it seemed like a rare sight.
For a while Bess and Root even looked set to guide the visitors to stumps. However, at the fag end of the day, Embuldeniya bowled one of his trademark deliveries that turned sharply to dismiss Bess. He then also removed Mark Wood. In the final over, Sri Lanka finally saw the back of Root, courtesy a run out. Root tried to be aggressive by skipping down the track, only to edge it to Oshada Fernando at FSL, who in turn showed the required reflexes to throw down the stumps with a direct-hit. A tired and dejected looking Root walked back to the pavilion after compiling a fantastic hand.
For most part of the day, Root had played almost a chanceless knock. The England skipper had started with positive intent, cracking sweeps and even the occasional switch-hit. With Sri Lanka in search of a wicket, Embuldeniya induced an edge to slips from Bairstow. Embuldeniya also troubled Daniel Lawrence with considerable turn, and forced him to edge it to Lahiru Thirimanne.
With the tourists needing a partnership of substance, Root and Buttler stitched a timely partnership of 97 for the fifth wicket. Buttler tried to follow in Root's footsteps with sweeps and reverse-sweeps. However, against the run of play, Buttler tried one reverse-sweep too many and could only edge it to the fielder at FSL who pouched the chance via Buttler's boot.
The on-field umpire asked for TV umpire's help who confirmed that Buttler was out. In fact, Buttler had also tried a similar ambitious reverse sweep in the first session, but eked out an under-edge onto the ground before it hit his boot. The wicket also turned out to be Ramesh Mendis's maiden Test scalp. On the brink of Tea, Embuldeniya then sent Sam Curran back to the hut to take his fifth wicket.
In what turned out to be an engrossing day's play, the clatter of wickets late in the day would have buoyed the Sri Lankan camp. The hosts would look to pick up the final wicket as soon as possible and then try to build a sizeable lead.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 381 (Angelo Mathews 110, Niroshan Dickwella 92; James Anderson 6-40) lead England 339/9 (Joe Root 186; Lasith Embuldeniya 5-99) by 42 runs.
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