Jack Leach admitted England were disappointed to have conceded a first-innings lead to Sri Lanka on the second day in Kandy.
Sri Lanka’s last four wickets added 171 runs to give them a lead of 46 on first innings. But while that is not unsubstantial in what appears to be a relatively low-scoring encounter, Leach was hopeful that bowling last on a dry wicket could provide England with a key advantage.
If they are to take that advantage, however, Leach feels they need to bat well in their own second innings and then bowl with more discipline in Sri Lanka’s.
“We’re a little bit disappointed that they’ve got a lead,” Leach said. “At one point we were hoping we might have that lead going into our batting, but we’re feeling good about bowling last on that wicket.
“We feel if we can put pressure on them with our batting, get a good total, then we feel we can win the game. Going into the fourth innings, hopefully the pitch will have broken up more.”
Despite figures of 3 for 70, Leach accepted he could have bowled better than he managed in Sri Lanka’s first innings.
“I thought I could have put a few more balls in the right areas,” he said. “On these wickets you have to be extra patient and always ask questions of the batter. I feel I could have done that a little better.
“I liked seeing it spin but sometimes you bowl a lot of balls that miss the outside edge. Those balls look great, but they’re not creating a chance. The craft, I feel at times, is to take some spin off the ball and maybe get one to slide or just grip a little bit.
“With the [new] hard ball it felt it was doing things a little bit quicker. One would skid and one would spin and bite quite aggressively. But as the ball got older, it slowed down off the pitch and made batting easier. It was consistently spinning, but you can still score runs on it.
“In the fourth innings, it will be even more crucial to be patient and put meaning on every ball.”
Leach completed a memorable day by opening the batting in England’s second innings and playing out the last over as a nightwatchman.
“I’ve taken Tres’s [Marcus Trescothick’s] spot at the top of the order,” he joked, in reference to his Somerset team-mate, who enjoyed a fine career as an England opener. “I didn’t expect to be opening the batting. Joe Root asked me. I panicked getting my stuff on and turned round and said ‘who’s coming with me?’
“I knew I had to get through one over and make it last as long as possible [to ensure there was not time for another one]. I could hear the crowd cheering every ball so that got me going a little bit.”