Kumar Sangakkara became the first batsman to hit 150-plus scores in four consecutive Tests as Sri Lanka pressed for victory in the first Test against England on Tuesday.
The left-hander made 152 as Sri Lanka piled up 442-8 in their second innings when they declared 30 minutes before stumps on the fourth day to leave England an imposing victory target of 350.
England closed the day on 9-1, losing Alastair Cook to the fourth ball of the innings from Chaminda Vaas, who forced an edge to Chamara Silva at first slip.
Skipper Michael Vaughan was unbeaten on one and nightwatchman James Anderson was on four as England return on the final day to attempt a history-defying win.
The highest fourth-innings total achieved at the Asgiriya Stadium to win a Test was 264-3 by India in 2001.
Vaughan’s men can, however, take heart from their previous visit to Kandy in 2003 when the tourists, set a target of 368, ended with 285-7 to draw the match.
Sangakkara followed his 92 in the first innings with a brilliant century containing 19 fours before he was caught at mid-on by Vaughan off part-time seamer Paul Collingwood.
Sangakkara’s 16th Test century — the sixth in his last 10 innings — made him only the ninth batsman in history to score a hundred against all the other nine Test-playing nations.
But he was the first to the rare feat of four 150-plus scores in as many Tests after making 200 not out and 222 not out against Bangladesh at home in July and 192 against Australia in Hobart last month.
Australian legend Don Bradman, Wally Hammond of England and Mudassar Nazar of Pakistan did it in three successive Tests.
Of his 16 Test centuries, Sangakkara has crossed the 150-run mark an incredible 11 times.
But he almost did not get there on Tuesday as Ian Bell at first slip dropped an easy catch off left-arm seamer Ryan Sidebottom when the batsman edged a rising ball on 98.
Sangakkara took a single to move to 99 and then drove Anderson uppishly past Ravi Bopara in the covers to reach three-figures with his 14th boundary.
Sangakkara celebrated his hundred with a powerful cut off Anderson to the cover fence and partner Silva joined in with two consecutive fours in the same over.
Sangakkara and captain Mahela Jayawardene put on 122 for the third wicket in the morning session after coming together at the fall of Michael Vandort’s wicket at 166-2 the previous evening.
Jayawardene hit 65, his 30th Test half-century, which was studded with nine boundaries.
The Sri Lankan captain was dismissed just before lunch when he was caught down the leg-side by wicket-keeper Matt Prior, who was standing up to the stumps to fast bowler Matthew Hoggard.
Silva increased England’s misery by helping add 71 in 75 minutes for the fourth wicket, himself making 37 before falling leg-before to left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.
Panesar, making the ball turn and jump on the wearing wicket, was England’s best bowler with 3-132 from 45 overs.
The only time England got a breather was when they were forced to lie on the ground for two minutes as a swarm of bees wafted across the ground in the final session.
Sri Lanka made 188 in their first innings and England replied with 281, with Muttiah Muralitharan grabbing six wickets on the way to surpassing retired Australian Shane Warne’s world record tally of 708 on Monday. — AFP