A century stand between Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera sucked the lifeblood from the England attack, sealing a stalemate to the third and final Test at the Rose Bowl.
With just the scalp of nightwatchman Rangana Herath to show for their frustrated efforts through the first session on Monday, the host seamers battled through the motions – and injury worries – across an afternoon dominated by centurion Sangakkara and his sidekick.
The duo took advantage of Stuart Broad’s lack of form and bruised heel, Chris Tremlett’s hamstring worry and Graeme Swann’s pained hand to orchestrate a 141-run alliance that ultimately afford the hosts just the one win – at Cardiff in the opener – in the three-match series.
The left-handed Sangakkara shrugged off failure in the first innings to strike the 25 ton of his Test career – his first in England – with confident play off the front foot and authority through the leg-side. Samaraweera, meanwhile, steadily progressed through 128 deliveries and nine boundaries to move to 87 not out.
Skipper Sangakkara, standing in for the injured Tillkaratne Dilshan, eventually fell when the umpteenth cut of his superb knock screamed straight into the hands of substitute fielder AK Rouse at point. While Broad hobbled around, Tremlett pulled up lame on occasion and Swann nursed a dodgy digit or two, James Anderson took his cue to remove the visiting skipper for 119.
Prasanna Jayawardene was left to pick up the charge alongside Samaraweera, and together the right-handed duo steered Sri Lanka to 334 for five – a lead of 141 – at the interval, brought on early by rain in Southampton.
The showers, which marred the bulk of the match, never relented and proceedings were called to a draw at 17:00 local time (16:00 GMT)
Earlier England grabbed the solitary wicket of Herath through the morning session.
The Rose Bowl was not bathed in the sunshine that graced it on Sunday, but nevertheless, play started on time despite the promise of showers, which surely would have delighted England, who begun the day in high spirits having reduced the opposition to 112 for three on day four.
Battling with the guile and determination that was so lacking at Sophia Gardens, Sangakkara and Herath provided stern defence in the face of England’s waning challenge
The hosts were not without their chances, though.
20 minutes into the session, Anderson found the edge of Herath’s bat as he stabbed at one outside the off-stump. The ball flew into the slips but a mix-up between Swann and Strauss saw the former move across into his captain’s line of sight at a crucial moment, with the distraction proving enough to see Strauss fumble the chance.
It was a rare error from the nightwatchman, who provided his senior partner with strong support, defending well and proving more than capable when it came to dispatching the bad balls.
At the other end, Sangakkara carried his characteristically determined gaze, intent on doing whatever he could to not only save the match but also improve his poor record on English shores.
He made good progress on both fronts, marching to his half-century and within a whisper of his ton as he made full use of an uninspired performance from the English attack.
Anderson’s chance aside, it always appeared Swann was the man most likely to make the breakthrough, and having decided against a review that would have had Herath dismissed lbw earlier in the day, he got his man in the second hour.
After enjoying a few fruitful overs against Jonathan Trott, Herath swung across the line as he looked to dish out similar punishment to Swann and was dismissed lbw. While the shot wasn’t the best, Herath had performed his duties manfully for much of the morning.
If England thought that one dismissal would herald the arrival of others they were in for a rude awakening, with the previously out-of-form Samaraweera hitting a positive 26 off 41 before the break.
Strauss cut a frustrated figure as the teams headed for the pavilion and he had every right too, with his troops delivering an insipid, sloppy performance when the opposite was required.
The teams now look to their one-off Twenty20 International on Saturday and five ODIs thereafter, with the hosts set to name their limited-overs squad/s on Tuesday. Cricket365