Root and Ali hold firm before rain aids England
Leeds: Joe Root and Moeen Ali prevented England losing further wickets in the second Test against Sri Lanka before rain on the final day at Headingley bolstered the hosts` hopes of a draw.
Root (nine not out) and Ali (22 not out) survived more than an hour`s play today to take England to 83 for five -- still needing a further 267 runs to reach their victory target of 350 -- before rain at 12:11pm (1111 GMT) led to an early lunch on the fifth day.
England resumed on 57 for five, having collapsed in the face of paceman Dhammika Prasad`s sensational burst of four wickets for 15 runs yesterday.
Prasad`s haul included England`s two most experienced batsmen in captain Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, with more than 200 Tests between them, while left-arm spinner Rangana Herath had nightwatchman Liam Plunkett out for a duck off the last ball of the day.
England needed to surpass their 86-year-old highest fourth innings record total to win of 332 for seven against Australia at Melbourne in 1928 if they were to record a sensational victory. It was all a far cry from when England were 311 for three after tea on the second day of this Test, thanks to Australia-born opener Sam Robson`s maiden Test century, and even when they reduced Sri Lanka to 277 for seven on Monday -- a lead of just 169.
At that point Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews threw his bat down in frustration after Prasad had been dismissed for a golden duck. But all-rounder Mathews went on to make a superb Test-best 160, the all-rounder`s putting on 149 with the admirable Herath (48).
However, England did not help themselves by being more concerned with trying to get Herath on strike than dismissing Mathews, with pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad looking to have run out of steam with Cook, reluctant to use Ali despite the `part-time` spinner`s two wickets in three balls in the first innings, running out of ideas.
Sri Lanka, annoyed by the way in which former coach Paul Farbrace left them to become Peter Moores`s England deputy and angered by both accusations of unsporting behaviour for the `Mankad` run out of Jos Buttler in their one-day series clinching win at Edgbaston and the reporting of limited-overs spinner Sachithra Senanayake, were on the brink of winning their first Test series on English soil of more than one match.
In Auckland last year Matt Prior took England to an unlikely draw by repelling New Zealand for 54 overs. But England, who had hoped this two-match series would see them recover from their 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia and who were just five balls away from defeating Sri Lanka in the first Test at Lord`s before the tourists clung on for a draw, had a minimum of 90 overs, weather permitting to bat on Tuesday.
However, with Root content to defend and left-hander Ali hitting three fours, England avoided fresh embarrassment before the rain fell.