Lahiru Thirimanne won over a personal redeeming battle realizing the much eluding three figure mark – 111in a 8-year barren run since doing so in 2013, but in a eminent lost battle as far as Sri Lanka staving off defeat despite a bizarre 3-wicket collapse for 14 runs sparked by left arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya getting rid of both England openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley with skipper Joe Root running himself out in a drama filled six overs as the visitors ended on 36 for 3 chasing 74 to win on the fourth day of the first Test match at the Galle International Stadium on Sunday.
If the Thirimanne ton bordered on the at long last reward of gold from the battle against years of form loss that had decimated a once gloriously promising past in contrasting blends of England’s Joe Root coming to century terms from a barren 2019, the fourth day thundered into the dramatic as Embuldeniya’s spin momentarily had the English spinning and a fight in their hands to salvage from the eminent threat of a rot setting in. It might have been so had Jonny Barstow going for another suicidal single had been run out very next ball after the Joe Root calamity had the direct throw from the Lankan camp hit the stumps. He had triggered the hara-kiri that saw the back of his captain by tapping a delivery from Dilruwan Perera in front of him and calling Root for a single that was never there which left Root who on the way collided with the bowler, but was by far short of creasing as wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella aim hit the stumps. Sibly was first to go clean bowled by Embuldeniya when he left a delivery he failed to read of the last ball of the first over – 1-3, and Crawley was caught at gully by Kusal Mendis for 8 last ball of fourth over – 2-12 followed by Root running himself out last ball of fifth over -3-14..
However, the advent of debutant Dan Lawrence, who signaled his entry to Test cricket with a rousing first innings half century, saw England recover prospering by a further 24-runs with Barstow on 11 off 37 and Lawrence on 7 off 24 in a cautious trod.
Sri Lanka’s chances of saving the game was on the cards as long as Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews, looking in good nick, kept going after night watchman Embuldeniya had fallen for the addition of 2 runs when play resumed. But those hopes were to evaporate when Thrimanne’s long battle consuming 251 balls and 361 minutes comprising 12 boundaries ended caught behind by Jos Buttler off Curran with the total on 210. It was his second three figure mark in 37 Test outings. Mathews went on to carry the fight to the end, but lacked the desired support as the rest wilted being the last to fall for a spirited back to the wall 71 off 219 deliveries off 344 minutes, just the 4 boundaries underlining his resolve.
Sri Lanka would surely be wishing they had more runs in the basket on a tricky spinning surface going into the final day.
SRI LANKA 135
AND 156/2 O/N, 359 (136.5 Overs) RR: 2.62
(Lahiru Thirimanne 111, Angelo Mathews 71, Kusal Janith Perera 62, Niroshan Dickwella 29, Dinesh Chandimal 20, Dilruwan Perera 24, Kusal Mendis 15, Wanindu Hasaranga 12, Jack Leach 5/122, Dom Bess 3/100, Sam Curran 2/37)
AND 38/3 (15 Overs) RR: 2.53
Jonny Bairstow n.o. 11, Dan Lawrence n.o. 7, Lasith Embuldeniya 2/13)