All-rounder Ben Stokes stole the show with two brilliant efforts in the field to help England break through Sri Lanka’s resilience with a brace of wickets shortly before lunch on the second day of the second test on Thursday.
Replying to England’s first innings total of 285, the hosts reached 139 for four at the break, still trailing by 146 runs, with Dhananjaya de Silva unbeaten on 57 and former captain Angelo Mathews not out on two.
Sri Lanka, trailing 1-0 in the three-test series after last week’s loss in Galle, resumed on 26-1 but lost nightwatchman Malinda Pushpakumara in the third over to a poor shot.
That dismissal brought opener Dimuth Karunaratne and de Silva together, and the duo built a stand of 96 through some smart batting with England’s bowlers looking bereft of ideas as the partnership grew.
Stokes then appeared from nowhere to raise England’s hopes, sprinting from gully when de Silva prodded to the off side, picking the ball up with one hand and completing a run out with one stump to aim at to dismiss Karunaratne for 63.
Stokes was soon in the thick of things once more when he took a sharp one-handed catch at slip to dismiss Kusal Mendis for one off left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who has taken 2-33.