90th over: Sri Lanka 241-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 20) A couple more to Chandimal. steering past gully. Wood is bowling with his usual pace and heart, but he’s mostly bowling length, which is Broad’s job. On this slow surface, Wood might be better off mixing bouncers and yorkers – chin music and toe balls. Easier said than done, of course.
89th over: Sri Lanka 239-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 18) And now back comes Leach, replacing Curran, and managing a maiden to Mathews. But no breakthrough, which is what England need before the ball goes soft.
88th over: Sri Lanka 239-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 18) Back comes Wood and Chandimal responds with more of his controlled uppishness, going over cover this time.
87th over: Sri Lanka 234-4 (Mathews 28, Chandimal 14) Curran keeps Mathews quiet until the last ball, which is guided for three. The deficit is down to 52. Meanwhile, in Brisbane, a thrilling partnership has just come to an end as Indian’s fearless young understudies stand up to Australia’s pace aces. If that doesn’t whet the appetite for the Ashes, and for England’s two meetings with India beforehand, I don’t know what will.
Here’s Brian Withington. “Shocked to see the chewy Malbec-munching Mac Millings sloping off to bed without so much as an amusing team list to leave us chuckling over – for shame, sir.” Ha. “On other fronts, is Stuart Broad ticking enough yet?” Hard to say, but here’s Wood again.
86th over: Sri Lanka 231-4 (Mathews 25, Chandimal 14) Another surprise change of bowling as Wood is taken off and his replacement is not Broad but Leach. As usual in this match, he is three parts tidy, one part sloppy, although the inevitable short ball goes for just a single.
85th over: Sri Lanka 226-4 (Mathews 23, Chandimal 11) It’s Mathews’ turn to edge Curran, but he keeps it down and picks up two. As long as he stays in, Sri Lanka have a chance of turning the tables. Chandimal gets a nick too, also harmless, and trickling away for four. And then Curran finds some lift – that’s Wood’s job – and beats the bat. Curran now has two for 34 from ten overs, the only wickets to fall to seam in this innings. What a competitor he is.
84th over: Sri Lanka 219-4 (Mathews 20, Chandimal 7) Chandimal looks up for the fight. He cuts Wood, uppishly but deliberately, over the slips, and then plays tip-and-run with a push into the covers.
83rd over: Sri Lanka 212-4 (Mathews 18, Chandimal 2) The stand-in captain, Dinesh Chandimal, joins the former captain, Mathews. He gets forward to Curran and opens the face to open his account. They have work to do: Sri Lanka are, in effect, minus 74 for four.
Wicket! Thirimanne c Buttler b Curran 111 (SL 210-4)
Gone at last! Curran bowls an inswinger to the left-hander and Thirimanne gets an inside edge, well held by Buttler. Curran’s gift for making things happen strikes again, and that’s the end of a very fine innings.
82nd over: Sri Lanka 210-3 (Thirimanne 111, Mathews 18) Wood starts by getting some swing. That’s Curran’s job! He’s bowling to Mathews, at 89mph, and there’s still nobody at bat-pad – which helps him get a maiden, when it’s surely more important to get a wicket.
81st over: Sri Lanka 210-3 (Thirimanne 111, Mathews 18) After bringing on Lawrence, Root is still feeling funky: he’s going to give the new ball to Sam Curran and Mark Wood, not Stuart Broad – perhaps in a bid to get Broad riled up, in a miniature replay of the start of last summer. Curran begins with a maiden to Thirimanne.
80th over: Sri Lanka 210-3 (Thirimanne 111, Mathews 18) The last over with the old ball (I presume) goes to Leach, who keeps it tight enough, conceding a single to each batsman.
“Dearest Tim,” says Mac Millings, sounding like my mum writing a letter, “I may have had a couple of glasses of Malbec too many, but as a citizen of the United States, ‘He may be surprised, but he’s not remotely bothered’ (68th over) is both the exact opposite of how I felt on January 6th, and also the perfect calming sentiment with which I now go to bed. Goodnight, everyone.” Goodnight Mac, and thanks for giving us food for thought.
79th over: Sri Lanka 208-3 (Thirimanne 110, Mathews 17) Lawrence is given a second over as England await the new ball. He’s coming round the wicket, with three men round the bat for Mathews and just the slip for Thirimanne. And Lawrence bowls a ripper! Pitching on a length on off, turning, spitting, lifting – far too good to take the edge of Thirimanne’s bat. Then, with a touch of bathos, Lawrence bowls a no-ball, to bring up the fifty partnership.
78th over: Sri Lanka 206-3 (Thirimanne 110, Mathews 16) Leach continues, flying the flag for orthodoxy, and draws a nick out of Mathews which goes to the right of slip. There’s no gully. The commentators are saying that’s because the bowlers haven’t been consistent enough – but it’s also because Root hasn’t placed much faith in them. His field for Leach here is less attacking than his field for Lawrence. And that’s drinks, with Sri Lanka having the better of the first hour and a quarter. They have lost only the nightwatchman and whittled the deficit down to 80. And Thirimanne has that longed-for ton.
77th over: Sri Lanka 203-3 (Thirimanne 109, Mathews 14) Lawrence is an off-spinner, like Bess, whom he replaces now, but quite unlike him too. He seems to bowl off the wrong foot, while looking the wrong way. But his first ball in Test cricket turns and takes the edge! Perhaps because Thirimanne has never seen anything like it. That’s as good as it gets for Lawrence, who lets slip a high full toss, duly shovelled for four. Ah well.
Dan Lawrence is coming on!
Root turns to England’s newest, and quirkiest, bowler. John Starbuck, you were right and I was wrong.
76th over: Sri Lanka 195-3 (Thirimanne 103, Mathews 12) You wait ages for a maiden from Jack Leach, and then he bowls two in a row.
Hundred for Thirimanne!
75th over: Sri Lanka 195-3 (Thirimanne 103, Mathews 12) You’re on 99. You haven’t scored a Test century for seven years. What would you like from the menu today? Ooh, something short and wide, please. Bess dishes it up, and Thirimanne slaps it away. He lifts both arms in triumph, as well he may. He’s been admirable, careful but positive, and he may just be dragging his team out of the mire.
74th over: Sri Lanka 191-3 (Thirimanne 99, Mathews 12) Better from Leach, who finds his metronome, keeps Mathews quiet and collects a maiden, only his third in 23 overs.
73rd over: Sri Lanka 191-3 (Thirimanne 99, Mathews 12) Thirimanne clips Bess for a single, and then Mathews gives a quarter-chance as Rob Key calls it – off the face of the bat, hitting Crawley at short leg somewhere near the shoulder, too fast for him to get his hands in the way.
72nd over: Sri Lanka 189-3 (Thirimanne 98, Mathews 11) Thirimanne has only ever made one Test hundred, in 36 matches, and his nerves are showing now. He pops a testing ball from Leach off bat and pad, but it’s loopy enough to get past Zak Crawley at short leg. And yet again England follow a good ball with a bad one, a full toss that allows Thirimanne to take a grateful single. England are missing Moeen Ali.
“What are the odds that Dan Lawrence will be given a go before the new ball?” asks John Starbuck. “He was talked up before the match began, so ought to be given a chance to show us what he might do.” It’s a good idea, but it’s hard to see him elbowing out Joe Root, who bowled well yesterday.
71st over: Sri Lanka 187-3 (Thirimanne 97, Mathews 10) Another near-miss for Thirimanne off Bess as he top-edges a sweep and just eludes the man running back from midwicket. But, again, Bess follows his moral victory with a bad ball – another short one, another cut for four. “England need to be 10 per cent better,” says David Lloyd.
70th over: Sri Lanka 180-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 9) Broad goes off and Jack Leach comes on, so it’s spin from both ends. After a year of illness and inaction, Leach is still scraping off the rust. He hands Mathews a freebie with a short ball outside off and that’s another cut for four.
Time for a word from Abhijato Sensarma. “Sri Lanka are in the process of winning hearts with this show of grit,” he reckons. “But no one remembers rearguards in the long run unless they actually alter the nature of the result. This is their chance to show the world they aren’t merely miracle men who rely on individual innings. Even the slightest sniff of victory from here, of course, shall be to the credit of the entire team.” Some of us might settle for being mere miracle men.
69th over: Sri Lanka 175-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 4) Mathews, facing Bess for the first time, brings the sweep out straightaway and takes a single. Thirimanne is tied down for the rest of the over as Bess continues to bowl fuller, and better, than he did yesterday.
68th over: Sri Lanka 174-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 3) Broad tries to surprise Mathews with a bouncer. He may be surprised, but he’s not remotely bothered. He just lets it go and waits for something pitched up, which duly arrives, on his legs, allowing him to get off the mark with a clip for three.
67th over: Sri Lanka 171-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 0) Bess and Sibley almost grab another as Thirimanne is tempted into an uppish drive. Sibley dives to his left at short-extra but can’t quite get a touch, and the ball goes for four. After that moral victory, Bess follows up with a poor ball, a half-tracker crying out to be cut for four. Thirimanne is calm enough to oblige.
66th over: Sri Lanka 163-3 (Thirimanne 83, Mathews 0) Broad has an over at Mathews, who fell to him in the first innings. The first two balls are wide enough to leave; the other four are spot-on, and Mathews goes block, block, block, block, knowing the ball is too old to be doing anything. Still, Broad has his maiden.
65th over: Sri Lanka 163-3 (Thirimanne 83, Mathews 0) A maiden from Bess, who lands one in just the right spot to Thirimanne – eight inches outside off, turning just enough. It’s blocked, uncertainly, and it makes you wonder why Root has only a slip in, with nobody there for the bat-pad.
64th over: Sri Lanka 163-3 (Thirimanne 83, Mathews 0) Thirimanne isn’t bothered: he cuts Broad for four, then nurdles a single behind square. If he was English, he’d be known as Sir Alastair.
63rd over: Sri Lanka 158-3 (Thirimanne 78, Mathews 0) Out comes Angelo Mathews, with a lot resting on his experienced shoulders. This partnership can’t afford to be the wrong side of 80.
Wicket! Embuldeniya c Sibley b Bess 0 (SL 158-3)
A breakthrough already! The nightwatchman Embuldeniya goes back and spoons a push straight to the man at short extra. Bess’s luck, which was outrageous on Thursday, is back for more.
62nd over: Sri Lanka 158-2 (Thirimanne 78, Embuldeniya 0) Broad’s grin soon fades as Thirimanne cover-drives crisply, on the up, for two. Talk about ruining a guy’s figures. Broad now has 9-6-5-0.
The sun is half-out, as advertised. Stuart Broad has the ball in his hand, a bandana on his head and a grin on his face.
Preamble: a deal to seal
The third day of this Test belonged firmly to Sri Lanka, who managed to induce an England collapse and then avoid one of their own. But England had been so dominant before that that, as we go into the fourth day, they remain in charge.
They could still win by an innings, as Sri Lanka need another 130 to make their guests bat again. That said, England could end up losing the match. All the Sri Lankans have to do is bat as tenaciously today as they did yesterday and bowl about ten times better than they did on Friday.
If Thirimanne and co. can turn 156 for two into, say, 435 all out, England will be chasing 150 and all bets will be off. Joe Root, after all, is now due a failure. And the only experienced batters alongside him are Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, one of whom will be knackered from keeping wicket, the other battered after taking a few blows on the body at short leg. At last, Brian Close has his own tribute act.
Play starts at 9.45am in Galle (we think), which is 4.15am in the UK. The forecast is better – 29 degrees with sunny spells – whereas Monday is looking sodden. England should be looking to seal the deal today, which means that Root will need to set attacking fields, and back his spinners, Jack Leach and Dom Bess, to bounce back from a day of rusty frustration.