Updated: Wednesday, 25 June 2014 00:16 | By Agence France-Presse

Sri Lanka close on England series win at Headingley

Sri Lanka finally saw off Joe Root and removed Matt Prior too as they eyed a match and series victory in the second Test against England on Tuesday's final day at Headingley.


Sri Lanka close on England series win at Headingley

England's Joe Root reacts after being caught for 31 during the fifth and final day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds, England on June 24, 2014 - by Paul Ellis

At tea, England were 173 for seven, still needing a further 177 runs to reach their victory target of 350.

But the more realistic goal was to preserve their last three wickets in the minimum 40 overs that remained to secure a draw, with the new ball available to Sri Lanka three overs after tea.

Root, six not out overnight, got under the skin of his opponents with his verbal taunts in the field.

And, with Sri Lanka offering a few choice words of their own to the batsman, umpires Billy Bowden and Steve Davis intervened several times in a bid to calm frayed tempers.

Together with Moeen Ali (56 not out), Root kept Sri Lanka at bay for more than two hours Tuesday until Nuwan Pradeep -- whose tailend feat in surviving the final five balls saw the tourists to a draw in the first Test of this two-match series -- made the breakthrough.

Root, looking to turn a full-length delivery legside, got an outside edge off Pradeep and was caught in the gully by Lahiru Thirimanne for 31.

But left-hander Ali pressed on to a maiden Test fifty off 129 balls, including eight fours, in nearly three hours.

Sri Lanka thought they had him caught on 52 at leg slip off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath but Davis ruled not out and a review confirmed the Australian's decision.

Nevertheless England, who resumed Tuesday in the dire position of 57 for five after Dhammika Prasad's four-wicket burst late Monday, saw the paceman strike again before tea.

Prior, who in Auckland last year took England to an unlikely draw by repelling New Zealand for 54 overs, had made 10 when he was undone by a lifting delivery from Prasad that took the handle of the bat and was well caught at short leg by Kaushal Silva.

However, Bowden asked third umpire Paul Reiffel to check for a no-ball.

It was a desperately close call but the former Australia seamer ruled in Sri Lanka's favour and 

England were 160 for seven with the 31-year-old Prasad able to celebrate taking five wickets in a Test innings for the first time. 

England started Tuesday needing to surpass their 86-year-old highest fourth innings record total to win of 332 for seven against Australia at Melbourne in 1928 if they were to record a sensational victory.

It was all a far cry from when England were 311 for three after tea on the second day of this Test, thanks to Australia-born opener Sam Robson's maiden Test century, and then again when they reduced Sri Lanka to 277 for seven on Monday -- a lead of just 169.

But Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews went on to make a superb Test-best 160, the all-rounder putting on 149 with Herath (48) for the eighth wicket.

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