Bell ton puts England closer to win over Sri Lanka
|Third Test, The Rose Bowl (day four):|
|England 377-8 dec v Sri Lanka 184 & 112-3|
An Ian Bell century put England closer to victory over Sri Lanka on day four of the third Test at the Rose Bowl.
Bell (119 not out) added 137 with Eoin Morgan (71) to allow England to declare on 377-8, a lead of 193.
James Anderson removed Tharanga Paranavitana before Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara put on 60 runs.
But Chris Tremlett accounted for Thirimanne and Stuart Broad had Mahela Jayawardene caught behind to leave Sri Lanka 112-3 at the close, 81 behind.
When England resumed their innings on Sunday morning on 195-4, it was nightwatchman Anderson who showed the home side's early attacking intent, hitting five fours in his 33-ball 27.
Twice in as many deliveries he hit Chanaka Welegedara through the covers for four but, from the next one, the left-arm seamer dragged his length back and enticed Anderson to jab through to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene.
By that time Bell, favouring the area between point and third man, had reached his half-century, a fifth successive score of 50 or more in Test matches.
He and Morgan made untroubled progress to lunch, stealing singles from a Sri Lanka side that was beginning to look increasingly uninterested.
After the interval England looked to up the pace, with Morgan regularly finding the off-side boundary despite Sri Lanka taking the second new ball.
The Irish-born left-hander reached 50 with a cover drive that also marked the century partnership and received a reprieve soon after when Suranga Lakmal's successful lbw appeal was overturned on review because the ball pitched outside leg stump.
Bell brought up his 14th Test century with a pull shot for a single but lost Morgan when, looking to giving himself room to again hit through the off side, the Middlesex man advanced down the wicket and edged Lakmal through to Prasanna Jayawardene.
Matt Prior cut Thisara Perera to Mahela Jayawardene at point for a second-ball duck and, when Stuart Broad lofted Lakmal into the hands off substitute fielder Suraj Randiv without scoring, England declared.
Sri Lanka openers Paranavitana and Thirimanne survived the six overs before tea but not without Paranavitana gloving a difficult one-handed chance to diving England wicketkeeper Prior off the bowling of Chris Tremlett.
Tremlett was again the bowler after the break when Bell almost held a sensational reaction catch at short leg off Thirimanne.
In the next over, England had the breakthrough. Anderson seamed one across Paranavitana that the left-hander could only edge to second slip, where Graeme Swann did well to stay low and cling on to the chance.
From there, debutant Thirimanne (38) and stand-in captain Sangakkara (44 not out) combined to frustrate the hosts, only for Thirimanne to edge a full delivery from Tremlett to Andrew Strauss at first slip.
Mahela Jayawardene looked untroubled until Broad found some extra bounce that saw the ball take the shoulder of the bat and nestle in Prior's gloves. That important wicket for England left the nightwatchman Rangana Herath to accompany the defiant Sangakkara to the close.
Sri Lanka will be looking to the skipper, and possibly the Southampton weather, to do much of the work if they are to escape with a draw.