Kaushal Silva, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal struck fighting half-centuries for Sri Lanka as England were made to wait to wrap up victory in the second Test at Durham on Sunday.
Having been dismissed in the morning for 101 in their first innings to trail by 397 runs, Sri Lanka performed much better second time around to reach 309 for 5 by the close of play on day three, still 88 runs from making England bat again.
The South Asian Islanders began resumed from 91 for 8 in their first innings and England made short work of cleaning up the tail as Stuart Broad had Suranga Lakmal caught behind in the first over of the day before Lahiru Thirimanne skied one to Nick Compton at point, attempting a big shot against Anderson in the fourth.
After bundling out Sri Lanka cheaply three times already in the series which is also a record – the first time since 1958 that a Test team had been bowled out for under 120 in three consecutive innings, England would have hoped for a similar result here as they enforced the follow on.
A different approach was required in the second innings and for once the batsmen did not disappoint. A solid 26 from left-handed Dimuth Karunaratne set the tone as, together with Silva as they put on 38 for the first wicket before Chris Woakesangled a ball across the left-hander who edged a catch to Joe Root.
The exciting and talented No.3 Kusal Mendis picked up the pace with three boundaries in five balls from Anderson to also reach 26 but was undone by the same bowler with a brilliant delivery that nipped away off the pitch to take the edge and give Jonny Bairstow a straightforward catch behind the stumps.
Lahiru Thirimanne was promoted to the no.4 position but this time he fell for a beautiful off-spinner by Moeen Ali that turned past the outside edge and knocked back his off stump.
Mathews and Silva managed to frustrate England furthermore adding 82 for the 4th wicket as Silva brought up his half-century from 111 balls while, after a steady start, Mathews began to take the attack to the England bowlers.
Steven Finn who looked the least threatening to take a wicket bowled a gem of a delivery to dismiss Silva as a leading edge popped up straight to Bairstow to end a resolute knock of 60.
Mathews continued to punish England bowlers as he adopted an aggressive approach against the likes of Moeen Ali. His excellent 105-ball knock of 80 ended when Anderson induced an edge which was cleanly taken by Bairstow diving to his right.
Chandimal represented Sri Lanka`s last hope and he kept the scoreboard ticking over to notch up his 11th half-century, seeing off the new ball late on day three with Milinda Siriwadana (35) to leave England with work to do on Monday. They constructed an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership that is worth 87.
In the two Tests so far, Sri Lanka have gained little and more importantly lost a lot of confidence. However, their performance on the day, in testing conditions against a superior bowling attach, should hold them in good stead.