Sri Lanka fight back

Double-century opening stand puts tourists back into contention

Last Updated: 22/05/11 6:00pm

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Dilshan: Notched century to put Sri Lanka back into contention against England Lions

Dilshan: Notched century to put Sri Lanka back into contention against England Lions

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Sri Lanka openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavitana both hit centuries as the tourists battled back into contention on day three against the England Lions.

The tourists responded in magnificent style to the challenge of following on at Derby as Dilshan (117) and Paranavitana (125) each followed up last Sunday's centuries at Uxbridge to help Sri Lanka close day three on 392 for six.

Starting again 227 behind, their double-century opening stand helped the tourists reach stumps 165 in credit and leave the Lions with still plenty to do to close out a victory which had looked a near formality 24 hours earlier.

Dilshan dominated proceedings, living up to his counter-attacking billing with 17 fours and two sixes from only 110 balls.

Tall left-hander Paranavitana provided the contrast and complement, in a more measured contribution which lasted 216 balls and contained 18 boundaries.

Among the Lions bowlers, Steven Finn was impressive in a testing mid-afternoon spell and was rewarded with two wickets, while there was one each for his three frontline pace partners as well as Ravi Bopara.

A seam attack which had bowled Sri Lanka out in little more than two sessions on Friday rarely came close to disturbing the openers before lunch as Dilshan and Paranavitana coasted to 138.

The hosts did not bowl particularly badly on a pitch which appeared to have lost some of its bounce.

Loose deliveries

But there were enough loose deliveries for Dilshan in particular to prosper, and not enough threatening ones to discomfort the opposition.

Paranavitana had a little good fortune on his side, squirting Jade Dernbach for one boundary perilously close to the slips shortly before reaching his half-century, while Dilshan had one escape on 95 when Samit Patel put down his second catch of the match off Graham Onions - this time in the gully.

But Finn then got one to bounce on Dilshan and Jonny Bairstow dived forward to take the catch behind as the captain finally went with the stand having realised exactly 200.

The tourists could be rightly heartened by their improved batting, but there will be some minor concern that their two heavyweight late arrivals from the Indian Premier League - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene - registered two more comparative failures.

Sangakkara was bowled leg-stump by Finn via a deflection between bat and pad, and Jayawardene lost his off-stump to a delivery from Ajmal Shahzad which appeared to keep low from short of a length.

Paranavitana's vigil ended in mid-evening with a tired cut straight to point off Bopara, and likely Test selections Dinesh Chandimal and wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene remain short of runs too.

The former edged Dernbach to Hildreth at slip, and Onions had his first wicket of the innings when Jayawardene gave the Lions captain some more catching practice.

Bairstow, apparently nursing some pain in his right hand, began to look as if he could do with some too.

His work behind the stumps became increasingly sloppy, including a reprieve for Thilan Samaraweera on six when he had an obvious chance of a stumping off Patel.

Samaraweera (54no) dug in to frustrate the Lions significantly in an 87-ball 50 - and after two late half-chances also failed to stick, he and his fellow first-innings success story Suraj Randiv remained in situ to the end of an awkward last session as light deteriorated.

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