SPINNER Graeme Swann insists England will resume this morning as favourites to win the first Test in Sri Lanka, despite needing to achieve their highest ever run chase in 135 years of cricket history.
The tourists also lost openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss early in their second innings, although batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott guided England to 111-2, 229 runs behind the hosts.
Earlier on day three Sri Lanka had frustrated England by putting on 87 for the last two wickets to reach 214, meaning Strauss’s men must eclipse by eight runs the 332 chased down against Australia in 1928 to win.
It would be only the fourth time England have successfully chased more than 300, and with a batting line-up that has exceeded 200 only twice in seven winter innings.
But Swann said: “I’d say we’re just favourites. I don’t like statistics. Just because somebody won a game in 1912 chasing 290 or someone got 350 in the Kerry Packer era doesn’t mean anything. This is 2012. History is there to be rewritten.”
Sri Lanka’s Prasanna Jayawardene disagreed: “We have the psychological advantage because they need to score more than 300.”
Swann completed his 12th five-for after Sri Lanka resumed on 84-5, and the hosts might have been dismissed for 167, had paceman Stuart Broad not been belatedly penalised for a no-ball, having caught and bowled wicketkeeper Jayawardene.
That would have set England a more attainable target of 293, but instead the hosts magnified England’s frustration by adding 47, Jayawardene contributing a damaging 61 not out.
Cook (14) and Strauss (27) both fell to nemesis Rangana Herath, who claimed six first-innings scalps, after tea, but Trott (40 no) and Pietersen (29 no) gave England faint hope.