Sri Lanka face an uphill battle to save the third Test against Pakistan after closing on 183 for three chasing a huge 492-run victory target yesterday.
The hosts started their chase positively with an opening stand of 83 either side of tea, but lost the wickets of Malinda Warnapura (31), Tharanga Paranavitana (73) and Mahela Jayawardene (two) in the final session.
Captain Kumar Sangakkara was unbeaten on 50 at the close with Thilan Samaraweera on 20.
The biggest challenge for the hosts will be the leg spin of Danish Kaneria, who followed his first innings five-wicket haul with two for 56 from 16 overs.
Kaneria found sharp turn and bounce, snaring Warnapura at leg slip and finding the outside edge of Jayawardene’s bat with a leg break.
Off spinners Saeed Ajmal and Shoaib Malik also applied pressure, the latter claiming the wicket of Paranavitana caught at short leg.
Pakistan set the hosts a daunting target when they declared shortly after lunch on 425 for nine having added 125 runs during the day.
■PIETERSEN RULED OUT
Andrew Flintoff has said that Kevin Pietersen’s absence for the remaining Ashes Tests could wreck England’s chances of regaining the urn.
Pietersen will be sidelined for six weeks after surgery on an Achilles injury which had troubled him throughout the first two Tests.
The 29-year-old had hoped pain-killers would allow him to help England build on their 1-0 lead.
But the injury deteriorated and Pietersen agreed with advice from a specialist to have immediate surgery.
Flintoff said Pietersen’s injury may give the Australians a major boost.
“He’s a massive influence on our team so it’s going to make it tougher for us,” Flintoff said.
Pietersen said: “As an England cricketer the Ashes are the pinnacle of the game so I’m absolutely devastated to be missing the rest of this series.”
■SPLIT WITH MOM BLAMED
Test great Kim Hughes believes Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson’s Ashes tour in England is being torn apart by a public split with his mother, reports said yesterday.
Johnson, 27, arrived in England as Australia’s premier pace spearhead but former Test skipper Hughes said his confidence has hit “rock-bottom” since his spat with his mother.
Vikki Harber made headlines earlier this month when she said her son was stolen from her by his karate champ fiancee, Jessica Bratich.
Harber told the Herald Sun newspaper her once close relationship with her son had deteriorated since he started going out with Bratich.
Hughes believes Johnson has been deeply affected by his mother’s comments.
“I found it incredibly surprising that his mum said what she did — Mitchell Johnson is a pretty sensitive young man and now it looks like he is totally devoid of self-confidence,” Hughes told the Daily Telegraph.