Rain halts England's misery in final Test
Chaminda Vaas (left) © AFP
Rain came to England's rescue after veteran Sri Lankan seamer Chaminda Vaas ripped through the top order in the third and final cricket Test here.
Vaas followed his 90 in Sri Lanka's first innings total of 499-8 declared with a four-wicket haul as England slumped to 33-6 soon after lunch on the third day.
Paul Collingwood (23) and Ryan Sidebottom (7) put on 28 for the unbroken seventh wicket to carry England to 61-6 when a heavy downpour hit the Galle International Stadium.
The umpires ordered an early tea break and even though the rain stopped, it may take the groundstaff an hour to get the field fit for play again.
Earlier, Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene hit an unbeaten 213 before he declared his team's first innings 50 minutes before lunch.
England found themselves in deep trouble at 24-4 by lunch, losing captain Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen in a sensational eight-over burst.
Vaughan was declared leg-before to Vaas when he left alone an incoming delivery and Bell was run out at the non-striker's end by a direct throw from point by Tillekeratne Dilshan.
Cook was unlucky to be given out caught behind off Vaas by umpire Asad Rauf as television replays showed the ball may have missed the outside edge of the bat.
Pietersen fended a brutish short ball from Lasith Malinga to give wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene his second catch of the innings and reduce England to 22-4.
England lost a fifth wicket with the third ball of the post-lunch session when Ravi Bopara (0) chipped a flick off Vaas to debutant Chanaka Wilegedara at mid-on.
Matt Prior, who missed four catches behind the stumps, continued his horrific run in the match when he was bowled by Vaas for four to make England 33-6.
Vaas, a 33-year-old veteran of 102 Tests, had figures of 4-24 from nine overs when the rain interrupted play.
Sri Lanka, who lead the three-match series 1-0, are seeking a 2-0 scoreline that will lift them to second place behind Australia in the official Test rankings.
Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's leading run-getter and centurion in Tests, continued to flay the England attack after making 195 in the drawn second Test in Colombo last week.
His 21st three-figure knock that helped him surpass Aravinda de Silva's Sri Lankan record of 20 on Wednesday, was studded with 25 hits to the fence.
It was Jayawardene's third double century in addition to a career-best 374 against South Africa in Colombo two years ago.
Jayawardene and his overnight partner Vaas flayed the England bowling with a seventh wicket partnership of 183.
Left-handed Vaas missed his second Test century by 10 runs when he top-edged an intended hook off fast bowler Matthew Hoggard and was caught on second attempt by Vaughan at mid-wicket.
Jayawardene, who was on 149 overnight, moved to 199 with a lofted cut off Steve Harmison to the point fence and then executed a superb cover drive two balls later to reach 203.
The Sri Lankan captain celebrated the landmark by lofting the next delivery over the cover fielder, but declared when tailender Malinga was bowled by Collingwood for five.
Harmison was England's most successful bowler with 3-104, while Hoggard went for 1-121, Sidebottom 1-95 and spinner Monty Panesar finished wicketless with 0-76 from 26 overs.
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