It was a day of tussle between two individuals who hustled to get their side ahead in a riveting Test match. Joe Root stood tall for England throughout the day - after batting almost through the evening session yesterday - to score 186 and Lasith Embuldeniya picked seven out of the nine wickets to fall in the innings in what gave the impression of lone-man battles from both camps. The Test match, although, refused to favor either camps at stumps on Day 3. An anticlimactic end to Root’s marathon effort, however, promises Sri Lanka a first innings lead. England are 42 runs behind Sri Lanka but have only one wicket remaining in the tank.
Root frustrated Sri Lanka through the entirety of the day, looking invincible with his defence, sweeps and footwork. The only hope for Sri Lanka to get him out of their way was when he held his hamstring in the afternoon session but that was just a passing niggle. The wickets at the other end kept coming at a manageable rate but Root was unmoved, pacing his innings as he felt suitable.
He was berserk last evening, taking only 77 balls to score 67, shifting the pressure on the home side. Today, he absorbed it all, moving his innings inch by inch. He completed his hundred in the morning session itself, adding 38 runs to his overnight score off 76 balls. Sri Lanka opted for some whimsical measures to unsettle him. Embuldeniya came over the wicket to Root, pitching the ball outside the leg-stump. But such has been the finesse of Root on this tour, he implemented the switch-hit to perfection to find another boundary. A single off the next delivery ended Embuldeniya’s brief experiment.
In the second session, Root scored only 32 runs with a solitary boundary and in the evening session, he brought himself 49 runs, striking at 56.3. When it appeared he will come back tomorrow to complete his second double hundred of the series in as many games and nibble the deficit, his innings came to a halt in a baffling way. Oshada Fernando at short-leg was too quick to allow an exhausted Root to head back into his crease who had overbalanced himself while whipping the ball towards the on-side. A run out was the only possible way to see the back of Root and it came in an abysmal fashion, even more so given it happened in the last over of the day.
Root found brief supporting acts through the day. None was more important than his 97-run stand with Jos Buttler. Buttler joined in after the customary two early morning wickets at Galle this series. The duo arrested a potential collapse. Buttler was the aggressor in the partnership while Root focussed on batting for long.
Buttler’s innings was cut short by a miscued reverse sweep. On 55, Buttler ballooned up a reverse sweep off his boot to Fernando at short-leg, becoming Ramesh Mendis’ first Test wicket. Sam Curran stayed in for nearly 11 overs but fell at the stroke of tea. Six down with 149 runs behind, Sri Lanka had an opening to fetch a sizeable lead.
Dom Bess then stuck around for 95 deliveries. The seventh wicket stand was slow but added 81 runs to the England’s total. The pitch showcased turn but it was not troublesome. It was a stand reminiscent of Dilruwan Perera’s strive with the lower-order on Day 2.
Like most partnerships in the day, this was also broken by Embuldeniya when Bess and Root threatened to see England through to stumps without any further damage. Lahiru Thirimanne, who became the first Sri Lankan fielder to take five catches in a Test innings, accepted a straight forward chance from Bess after a couple of earlier opportunities had fallen short.
With his left-arm spin, Embuldeniya bowled in consistent areas from around the wicket, leaving England’s right-hander’s bewildered with the turn or the lack of it. In the morning session, he picked Jonny Bairstow with the one which went straight and then grasped Dan Lawrence with the one that turned. His only left-handed scalp was Curran who was his fifth victim of the innings. With Bess and Mark Wood, he completed a 7-wicket haul, his best bowling figures in a Test innings as yet.
While Embuldeniya picked seven, Dilruwan Perera was unlucky not to be in the wickets column. Bowling brilliantly otherwise, Perera was let down by the umpires giving the benefit of doubt to the batsmen and Niroshan Dickwella missing out a stumping chance against Lawrence.
After three days of action, the match is still in balance. Root’s departure was inarguably a big event to cap off the day. England will hope for their 10th wicket pair to accumulate as many runs as possible. Sri Lanka will aim to cease the same as any amount of lead can prove to be substantial in the longer run.
Cover Image Credits: SLC