SRI LANKA coach Stuart Law admits his side’s hopes of saving the third Test today hinge on stand-in captain Kumar Sangakkara.
Ian Bell’s stylish unbeaten century (119) allowed England to declare on 377-8, 193 runs ahead of the tourists, and although Sri Lanka reduced the deficit to 81 by the close of day four, the loss of three wickets dramatically reduced their hopes of escaping unscathed from the Rose Bowl.
The weather may ultimately come to Sri Lanka’s rescue, but should the forecasted rain fail to materialise, their hopes of a draw are almost solely dependant on Sangakkara living up to the world class billing he has never been able to justify when batting in English conditions.
“He’s a world class act and one of the best players on the planet so he’s always very important,” said Law of Sangakkara, who averages over 50 in Tests, but well under 30 in England. “We’ve got one of the best players in the world at the crease and he’s hungry. He looked very determined last night, even more so than he has done in this tour, and that’s a good thing for Sri Lanka.”
England’s push for a 2-0 series win, if successful, will most likely be sealed by the seam triumvirate of James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad, all of whom were unlucky to end with just one wicket a apiece last night.
But skipper Andrew Strauss was only afforded the luxury of an early declaration thanks to a partnership of 137 between Bell and Eoin Morgan.
The Irishman continued to back up the selectors’ faith in him with another attacking knock of 71, but Bell is rapidly cementing his status as the star of England’s middle order.
It hasn’t always been that way for the Warwickshire batsman who, unlike Morgan, took rather longer to adjust to the rigours of Test cricket.
“I’ve had times when it got very tough, when I got left out of the team, when I really was scratching about for runs,” said the 29-year-old. “You try to remember those times when you’re in good form and that’s what I’m trying to do now.
“It was nice to get out there and score some runs. I feel in pretty good nick at the minute.
“I’ll keep working hard with Graham Gooch and hopefully the performances will keep coming like that. I try to put in as much hard work as I can and keep improving.”