Sri Lanka hold a lead of only 33 runs with just four wickets remaining in the second Test.
Graeme Swann's late double puts England in position to triumph
Matt Prior feels Graeme Swann's double late strike yesterday has put England in a "strong position" heading into today's deciding day of the second Test against Sri Lanka.
Swann's celebrations at the dismissals of Thilan Samaraweera and Suraj Randiv in the space of three deliveries showed just how important this could be for England, who need victory to draw level with Sri Lanka at 1-1 and preserve their status as the world's No 1 side.
The hosts will resume this morning on 218 for six - a fragile lead of 33 - but with Mahela Jayawardene on 55 not out and in sight of his third century in a remarkable series, there is still much for England to do if they want to pick up the victory they so badly need to preserve their status in the Test rankings.
Prior believes the tourists must turn the screw this morning.
"Going into the last day of the Test match, Sri Lanka lead by 33, six down, and we'll back ourselves to chase whatever they set," Prior said.
"But first and foremost we have to take the four wickets. Hopefully, we'll be chasing less than 150, but we know we've got the ability in the dressing room to chase down anything."
England started the day solidly but went 43.3 overs without success in the evening as their nemesis Mahela Jayawardene and Samaraweera put on 90 for the fifth wicket to frustrate them.
Then, with the tourists fatigued by heat and humidity and facing a tricky chase on the fifth day, Swann capitalised on the new ball to change the complexion of the match.
"It was a tough day, frustrating at times but I think the way we stuck to our guns was absolutely fantastic," Prior told Sky Sports 1, "and I think we deserved that couple of wickets at the end there to put us in a strong position.
"In countries like Sri Lanka, with the wicket playing pretty flat and the heat, you have to pick and choose the times when you go really hard as a unit and we knew that new ball was going to be a big time for us.
"The team picked itself up, got a lot of energy going, and we really deserved those two wickets at the end."
England could not have left it much later to knock off Sri Lanka's fifth and sixth wickets, Swann making the breakthrough in the last over of the day.
He turned one sharply at Samaraweera, who was shocked by the spin and ended up dislodging a bail as he ran the ball off the face of the bat.
Swann summoned up one more piece of magic to bowl Randiv through the gate, giving England some much-needed momentum to use on the fifth morning.
The vanquished Samaraweera cut a frustrated figure at stumps, telling Sky Sports 1: "They bowled really well, straight to the batters, and it's not easy to dominate this wicket in batting.
"We were in a good position until the 89th over and lost two wickets. I think that is a crucial point."
Explaining the loss of his own wicket, he said: "I think it was a lack of concentration.
"I think Swanny bowled brilliant balls but I think this was not the best ball."
He added: "The first session is crucial. We have to get through without a wicket. I think 150 [would be] a very good lead. Anything can happen on the fifth day."
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan has been fined 10 per cent of his match fee for over-the-top appealing during the current Test match.
Bowling during England's first innings on Thursday, Dilshan charged towards the striker's end celebrating a dismissal even before the decision had been given, the ICC said.
When he reached the other end, Dilshan turned and appealed repeatedly, according to the charge laid by the on-field umpires Bruce Oxenford and Asad Rauf, and the TV umpire Rod Tucker.
Javagal Srinath, the match referee, said in a statement that Dilshan accepted that he had violated the ICC's code of conduct.
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