Mahela strokes 149no

2007-12-20__sp011.jpgSkipper Mahela Jayawardene became Sri Lanka’s leading century-maker on Wednesday to dampen England’s hopes of a series-levelling win in the third and final Test here.
Jayawardene was unbeaten on 149 as Sri Lanka, taking advantage of a butter-fingered English display, carried their overnight score of 147-4 to an almost impregnable 384-6 by stumps on the rain-hit second day.
Play began 90 minutes late due to a wet outfield caused by heavy rain on Tuesday evening, further curtailing a match in which just 55 of the stipulated 90 overs were bowled on the first day.
Jayawardene, who became Sri Lanka’s leading run-getter during his 195 in the drawn second Test, surpassed Aravinda de Silva’s record of 20 centuries with his second consecutive ton.
His five-hour knock, studded with 15 boundaries, gives the hosts a chance to press for a 2-0 series win over the remaining three days and clinch second place in the official rankings behind Australia.
“We are positive about trying to win this one because we go to every match wanting to win it,” said Jayawardene.
“The wicket is good for batting but it will deteriorate as the match progresses and probably offer our bowlers something to work on.
“We will take it session at a time and see how it goes.”
Jayawardene and his overnight partner Tillekeratne Dilshan (84) defied the England bowlers till just before tea in a 149-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
England grabbed two wickets against the run of play, but Chaminda Vaas (46 not out) prolonged the tourists’ agony by adding 97 for the unbroken seventh wicket with Jayawardene.
England coach Peter Moores admitted he was disappointed after the first two days, but hoped his team will learn from Jayawardene’s persistence when the tourists bat.
“We are disappointed because we think we could have done a better job,” said Moores.
“There are no excuses. Jayawardene played well and has shown you can bat on this wicket and build a score. We will take that when we bat.
“We will come back on Thursday and have another go.”
The two wickets England claimed in the entire day came off four deliveries.
Jayawardene was on 99 when he patted a ball from Ravi Bopara and Dilshan called for a run that would have given his captain his 21st century.
Dilshan was however unable to complete the run as Alastair Cook ran in from slip and broke the stumps before the batsman made his ground at the striker’s end.
Three balls later, Bopara dismissed wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene for no score, caught behind by Matt Prior, as Sri Lanka slipped from a comfortable 287-4.
England dropped three catches, had one turned down, and saw an unnecessary overthrow from captain Michael Vaughan go for four runs.
Dilshan had not added to his overnight score of seven when Cook at gully failed to hold a slash against left-armer Ryan Sidebottom.
Wicketkeeper Prior missed both Jayawardene and Dilshan — – and was denied one catch when Dilshan (65) gloved Matthew Hoggard down the leg-side, but Australian umpire Daryl Harper disallowed a loud appeal.Vaughan employed seven bowlers to curtail the Sri Lankan run-rate in good batting conditions. Steve Harmison returned with 3-72 while Sidebottom and Bopara were the other two wicket-takers.

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