Sri Lanka stun England with dramatic fourth day chase

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Sri Lanka Under-19s pulled off a stunning chase after Ranuda Somarathne’s unbeaten hundred downed England Under-19s in the first four-day Test at Chelmsford on Thursday (26).

Set 273 to win in two sessions, the tourists were reduced to 98 for 5 as Tom Aspinwall produced a relentless post-lunch spell to remove three of the tourists’ top four. 

The Lancashire right-arm medium pacer was accurate, miserly, and stepped up at a crucial time for his team.

And when Hampshire’s Dominic Kelly induced a loose shot from first-innings centurion Asitha Wanninayake that ended up in the grateful hands of captain Ben McKinney, England had Sri Lanka four down and facing defeat.

Ben McKinney made it five as Raveen de Silva was trapped lbw, but a sixth-wicket partnership worth 89 in 80 balls between Somarathna and Lahiru Dawatage restored hope.

Dominic Kelly broke the stand, but Somarathne continued on his merry way, reaching three figures and then helped to secure victory with 11 balls to spare, helped in no small part by an unbeaten 23 from Wanuja Sahan.

It puts Sri Lanka 1-0 up heading into the second and final Test in Derby starting on Sunday (28 August), for which England are likely to recall members of their Under-19 World Cup squad.

The morning session had gone well for Sri Lanka who turned England’s overnight 199 for 3 into 292 all out and capitalised on the home side’s desire for quick runs.

Wanuja Sahan Kumara, a slow left-arm orthodox spinner, shone for them with figures of 4 for 89 off 27 overs. 

The dismissal of George Bell early in the morning session for 29 by Kumara was instrumental and led to a period when England were generous in gifting their wickets. 

Duvindu Ranathunga picked up 3 for 34 in a disciplined and accurate bowling performance by the Sri Lankans.

However, Sri Lanka’s joy was short-lived as Aspinwall wreaked havoc in the early stages of the chase.

As the evening session began, England were six wickets from victory, an admirable effort It had been an admirable effort given their position after two days in Chelmsford.

Captain McKinney got de Silva leg-before for 22, and his ecstatic celebration, running towards the slip cordon, showed he knew the potential importance of that wicket. 

Aspinwall returned to the attack as England sensed victory. However, they had not anticipated the resistance and skill of Somarathna. 

He showed the top order how to bat on a good surface and as the sun shone over the ground, an air of tension enveloped it. 

Dawatage was an able partner to Somarathna, but he was denied his half-century when Kelly pinned him to reignite England’s chances of victory.

Sahan came to the crease and though the breakthrough gave England a new lease of life, overs ticking by with no further wickets galvanised Sri Lanka.

They batted with energy in the final session, especially Somarathna, who earlier on in the day, had soaked up the pressure and played a well-paced innings. He ended unbeaten on 120, hitting the winning runs thanks to a boundary off the first ball of the penultimate over from Ben Cliff.