England 486 (Prior 126, Cook 96, Morgan 79) and 335 for 7 dec (Cook 106, Pietersen 72, Trott 58, Bell 57*) drew with Sri Lanka 479 (Dilshan 193, Finn 4-108) and 127 for 3 (Paranavitana 44)
This time there was no post-tea demolition job as Sri Lanka kept themselves alive in the series by surviving the final afternoon at Lord’s fairly comfortably by reaching 127 for 3. Andrew Strauss’s declaration left a notional target of 343 in 58 overs after Alastair Cook hit his 18th Test hundred, but England could have been more aggressive and they never really looked like hustling through Sri Lanka again.
The visitors have shown twice in this series – the second innings in Cardiff and the first innings here – that the batting is prone to collapse. Adding to that on the final day Tillakaratne Dilshan was only prepared to bat in an emergency, having sustained a hairline fracture to his thumb, which meant they had four fit frontline batsman, but Strauss opted to bat Sri Lanka out of the contest and hope for another last-session demise.
However, to Sri Lanka’s credit they kept their composure although wickets went down with enough frequency to keep a semblance of interest. Thilan Samaraweera, who was given lbw to Graeme Swann on 4 but successfully used the DRS, secured safety alongside Prasanna Jayawardene when Strauss called the game off with a handshake at the start of the final hour despite Sri Lanka’s weak batting to follow.
When Kumar Sangakkara, opening in place of Dilshan, drove loosely to point in Chris Tremlett’s third over England sensed a chance. They could have had a second major scalp before tea when when Mahela Jayawardene went for a single to cover and would have been out with a direct hit from Eoin Morgan. Instead, Jayawardene and Tharanga Paranavitana put together an 18-over stand which took the sting out of England.
Stuart Broad provided a lift when Jayawardene edged to fourth slip where Kevin Pietersen held a fine catch, but England didn’t strike in clusters. Jonathan Trott proved a surprise with the ball when he hooped one back into Paranavitana which struck pad first and at 96 for 3 with 25 overs left there was time for a final push.
Steven Finn produced a lively spell – and Samaraweera edged between third slip and gully as Strauss didn’t pack the cordon – but when Swann and Pietersen began racing through a few overs it was clear the end would come as early as possible.
Throughout the day England seemed to lack a little intensity. Their second innings included plenty of positive signs, not least Pietersen’s 72 and Ian Bell’s brisk 57, yet it wasn’t quite a performance with the verve of a team that aspires to be the best in the world. The first hour was fine as Pietersen led the way but scoring slowed towards the interval and Cook added 26 in the two hours. Overall they made 111 runs from 26 overs in the morning, but it didn’t quite feel ruthless enough.
Pietersen dominated the scoring during the morning by reaching his fifty from 85 balls. Although he was still battling his technique at times, far more shots were coming off the middle particularly when he drove two boundaries in an over off both Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal.
Surprisingly, it was half an hour into the day before Rangana Herath was introduced by which time Pietersen had bedded in. However, his scoring rate had slowed when Herath went over the wicket and, after padding one delivery away, watched a ball spin past his outside edge and hit off stump. This time, though, it was just a cracking delivery.
Cook didn’t do anything to move out of his comfort zone and towards the latter part of the session England’s run-rate actually dropped when logic suggested it should have been going the other way. Dilhara Fernando bowled a decent spell from the Pavilion End, beating Cook a few times from round the wicket, but both he and Herath – who sent down a 10-over spell for 21 runs – were allowed to bowl without any undue pressure being applied.
In that respect Pietersen’s departure wasn’t a bad thing for England. Bell played the perfect innings for the situation although should have been run out on 27 when Billy Doctrove didn’t ask the third umpire. He already had three boundaries in one Fernando over before lunch and barely played a defensive shot after the break. Neither, though, did he resort to slogging but instead relied on timing and placement.
Cook, meanwhile, went to his 18th Test century from 223 balls having missed out by four runs in the first innings and then started, uncharacteristically, to manufacture some shots. His dismissal was the first time he’d been stumped in first-class cricket and led to some rather fruitless slogging down the order.
However, there was one unfortunate by-product when Matt Prior, after being run out in the search for quick runs, smashed a dressing-room window with a piece of equipment and had to apologise to the MCC members who were showered in glass. Unlike the window, Sri Lanka didn’t crack.