BATSMAN Ian Bell last night admitted England had been outclassed after a disastrous fourth day of the second Test left them on the cusp of an improbable and humiliating series defeat to Sri Lanka.
First the tourists piled on the runs, captain Angelo Mathews leading the way with 160, as they set a victory target of 350 at Headingley. Then an abject collapse by England’s top order left the hosts floundering on 57-5, as Sri Lanka bowler Dhammika Prasad plundered figures of 4-15.
It left England facing almost certain defeat in the first Test series under new head coach Peter Moores, and a first ever at home to Sri Lanka.
“No excuses, we have to do better. Massive credit to Sri Lanka, they have outclassed us,” said Bell. “Ideally we would like to be one or none down and it’s a desperately disappointing day. From the position we were in – we were outstanding for the first two days – we should be better. They bowled really well but there are no excuses.”
Sri Lanka proved stubborn opponents when resuming on 214-4, despite England seamer Liam Plunkett claiming the wickets of Dinesh Chandimal and Prasad in successive balls. Mathews crafted a superb captain’s innings, putting on 149 for the eighth wicket with Rangana Herath (48), following Mahela Jaywardene’s 79, before finally chipping a James Anderson full toss to mid-wicket.
Under-fire skipper Alastair Cook and fellow opener Sam Robson lasted an hour as England began their pursuit of a record run-chase before the former dragged a pull onto his stumps for just 16, and Gary Ballance (0) departed lbw in the very next ball.
Prasad was in menacing form and soon added the scalps of Robson (24) and Bell (8) before Plunkett, put in as nightwatchman, epitomised a woeful day by holing out to Nuwan Pradeep at cover off Herath.