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Sri Lanka 203 and 15 for 0 (Silva 8*, Karunaratne 7*) need a further 447 to beat England 342 and 322 for 6 dec (Jennings 146*, Stokes 62)
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

On the third day of a Galle Test that has defied most predictions, Keaton Jennings produced an exceptional, unbeaten hundred, Ben Stokes provided a half-century and Ben Foakes and Joe Buttler made middling contributions to propel England to a virtually unassailable position. The visitors were 446 runs ahead at stumps, with Sri Lanka’s having had to bat seven overs following a declaration, as the day waned.

England will hardly be bothered that they didn’t get a wicket before the close – there are two more days to play, and this is a notoriously treacherous surface on days four and five. No team has ever successfully chased more than 99 at this venue. No team has ever batted out more than 114 fourth-innings overs. Sri Lanka’s situation, in short, is bleak in the extreme.

Jennings’ 146 not out off 280 balls was not quite flawless. There were mishits and plays-and-misses through the day, as Sri Lanka’s spinners – Dilruwan Perera in particular – repeatedly tested his outside edge. He should also have been out for 58 off the bowling of Dhananjaya de Silva, but the umpire turned the lbw appeal down, and Sri Lanka declined to review. But as many who have made second-innings hundreds on turning pitches in Asia will attest, you need such pieces of good fortune to build the kind of mammoth innings Jennings produced.

What he did especially well was to resolutely defend the balls that threatened his stumps, and his pads, and let the turning deliveries spin past his blade. On the many occasions he was beaten, the close-in fielders would yelp and gesticulate, but Jennings refused to be shaken out of his calm. His defensive strategy had worked thus far. Why let the unplayable balls panic him into a different method?

It was on the off side that Jennings prospered most, partly because Sri Lanka had two offspinners in their attack, but also because his most profitable strokes in the innings were the reverse sweep, the cut and the back-foot punch through the cover region. Of his first hundred runs, a full third came behind square on the off side. More than two thirds came on the off side in general.

Sri Lanka attempted to curb the reverse sweep via various means, initially putting a man deep, then pulling him into the circle to try and tempt a mistake, and later even briefly posting a gully, in addition to a slip, to try and block off that area. Jennings continued to reverse sweep despite this, and just kept scoring runs. It wasn’t until later in the day, especially as England strove for quick runs ahead of the declaration, that Jennings began to play more expensively to leg. Of his nine fours, seven came on the off side.

More to follow…

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