Leeds - Dhammika Prasad's dramatic four-wicket burst following a hundred from skipper Angelo Mathews left Sri Lanka on the brink of victory in the second Test against England at Headingley on Monday.
England were 57 for five at stumps on the fourth day, needing a further 293 runs to reach their imposing victory target of 350.
Sri Lanka have won just two Tests in England and never claimed a series on English soil of more than one match.
having held out for a draw in the first Test at Lord's with just one
wicket standing, Mathews's men were now on course for a memorable
"After the first couple of days no one thought we would be in this position," Mathews told Sky Sports.
"Prasad bowled a brilliant spell and got four wickets for us and we are sitting pretty."
in the day, England bowled too short and Prasad, recalled in place of
the dropped Nuwan Kulasekara, showed them the value of pitching the ball
England were 39 without loss when Prasad, the fifth bowler
used by Mathews, struck twice in his first over on the way to figures of
four for 15 in six overs.
With his third ball he induced England captain Alastair Cook to bottom-edge a pull onto his stumps.
meant the left-handed opener's run without a Test century since he
scored the last of his England record 25 hundreds against New Zealand at
Headingley last year now extended to 24 innings.
And next ball Prasad's excellent full-length delivery had Gary Ballance plumb lbw for a duck.
Bell prevented a hat-trick but Prasad was in the wickets again when
Australia-born opener Sam Robson, who in the first innings made a maiden
Test century, drove loosely outside off stump and was caught by second
slip Mahela Jayawardene for 24.
Prasad then surpassed his previous
Test-best of three for 82 against Pakistan in Colombo six years ago
when he squared up Bell with a fine delivery that clipped the top of
England were now 52 for four, with Prasad having taken four for 10 in 24 balls.
to what became the last ball of the day, nightwatchman Liam Plunkett
fell for nought when he chipped a gentle catch to cover off left-arm
spinner Rangana Herath.
Mathews's superb 160 was the centrepiece of Sri Lanka's second innings 457.
It was only his fourth century in 40 Tests but third since he became captain last year.
it meant the all-rounder, whose knock surpassed his 157 not out against
Pakistan at Abu Dhabi last year, had set new personal Test-bests with
both bat and ball this match after the seamer took four for 44 in
England's first innings.Mathews received excellent support from Herath (48) in an eighth-wicket stand of 149.
pair were only separated on the stroke of tea when Mathews, in search
of a single for his 150, sent back Herath only for the non-striker to be
run out by Root's direct hit from mid-on.
"I said 'hang in there and I will score the runs', and we did," recalled Mathews when asked what advice he'd given Herath.
"He played a brilliant knock."
did give a tough chance on 21 off little-used off-spinner Moeen Ali
when wicketkeeper Matt Prior failed to grab a deflected sweep off his
Mathews too had a reprieve on 87 when fast bowler Plunkett
dropped a hard-hit return catch, one of several chances missed by
England in this Test.
Sri Lanka resumed Monday on 214 for four, a lead of 106, with Jayawardene 55 not out and Mathews 24 not out.
They briefly faltered at 277 for five when fast bowler Plunkett took two wickets in two balls.
An angry Mathews threw his bat down in frustration but he responded by driving Plunkett for a ferocious six over mid-wicket.
had seemed more concerned trying to get Herath on strike than
dismissing Mathews, with Cook rarely putting pressure on his Sri Lankan
counterpart with attacking fields.
Mathews's impressive innings of
more than five hours, including 247 balls with 25 fours and a six,
ended when he chipped a James Anderson full-toss to mid-wicket.