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A resilient 85 from Roshen Silva put a brakes on England’s charge towards a first away Test series win for nearly three years, as Sri Lanka fought back in the 2nd Test at Pallekele.
Sri Lanka had resumed on day two on 26-1 overnight and, after losing nightwatchman Malinda Pushpakumara early on, built promisingly through a comfortable stand worth 97 between opener Dimuth Karunaratne and Dananajaya De Silva.
With lunch approaching, Ben Stokes changed the momentum, running out Karunaratne for 63 with a brilliant direct hit.
The all-rounder then took a brilliant one-handed catch low to his left, removing new batsman Kusal Mendis for just one.
The wickets continued to fall after lunch, with De Silva and Angelo Matthews both edging Adil Rashid behind to Ben Foakes.
At 165-6 England sensed a sizeable first-innings lead, but then Silva halted their progress. Sri Lanka would eventually more than double that total, reaching 336 all out to secure a 46-run first innings lead.
Recalled to the Test side to replace injured captain Dinesh Chandimal, Silva batted resolutely with a range of partners.
Such fighting spirit has been shown before by the middle-order batsman — he scored 74 not out on Test debut against India in Delhi to help his side escape with a draw.
This time Silva shared sizeable partnerships with Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya and Suranga Lakmal who contributed 87 runs between them — hugely valuable on a pitch already taking considerable spin.
Silva was the last man out, his fourth Test 50 in a promising early Test career and an early birthday present for himself — he turns 30 tomorrow.
England’s first innings total had five penalty runs added to it for a “deliberate run short” during the Sri Lankan innings.
England sent out nightwatchman Jack Leach to open the batting, the Somerset man blocking out the only over possible in the visitors second innings before the close.
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