On a rain truncated day, Kevin Pietersen returned to his fluent best with an innings of 85 as England edged ahead on day three at the Rose Bowl.
The Hampshire faithful were forced to endure another day dominated by rain, with only 2.4 overs possible in the afternoon session after the start of play had been delayed by 20 minutes.
But when there was play it would have been to the home fans liking, with Pietersen entertaining the crowd with a variety of drives and flicks through midwicket that all but erased lingering doubts about his place in England’s starting XI.
The number four enjoyed a fruitful partnership of 106 with opener Alastair Cook (55), the pair rescuing the innings after Andrew Strauss (3) and Jonathan Trott (4) fell early.
The English captain again fell prey to the left-arm seam of Chanaka Welegedera, with Trott faltering in the face of the awkward angle generated by right-armer Lakmal from around the wicket.
Both batsmen had wanted their shots to fetch four through the covers. Neither succeeded, with the catchers behind the stumps doing the rest on the back of a couple of regulation edges.
At 14 for two, the home side had reason for worry. But Cook, true to form, rode the storm across a testing Rose Bowl pitch alongside Pietersen, with the duo adding 40 unbroken runs to carry their side to 54 for two at the break.
After a frustrating afternoon, the English batsmen came to the fore, with Cook taking his characteristic anchor role as Pietersen played the aggressor.
Both men reached their half-centuries in close succession before Cook was dismissed cutting to Samaraweera at gully who juggled the chance before handing Dilhara Fernando is first wicket of the match.
Ian Bell (39*) fitted seamlessly next to Pietersen, with the duo making light work of the Sri Lanka attack.
Not even the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath that has so troubled Pietersen looked likely to dismiss the right-hander but with just minutes remaining in the day and the Sri Lankan total surpassed, Pietersen attempted to extravagantly drive a full, wide delivery from Thisara Perera, only succeeding in edging it to Jayawardene behind the stumps. It was Perera’s first Test wicket and a valuable one at that.
It was Engalnd’s day as they eked out a lead of 11 and Sri Lanka – already blighted by injury – may have to do without Fernando for the remainder of the innings, with the fast bowler twice forced off the field with a knee injury.
With better weather expected on Sunday, a result – although unlikely – may still be a possibility. Cricket365