Cook's England crumble at Headingley

England

Captain Alastair Cook's wretched stretch of form continued – and largely characterised England's abysmal performance – as Sri Lanka neared a historic victory on day four of the second and final Test at Headingley in Leeds on Monday.

Captain Alastair Cook's wretched stretch of form continued – and largely characterised England's abysmal performance – as Sri Lanka neared a historic victory on day four of the second and final Test at Headingley in Leeds on Monday.

Chasing a maiden two-Test series triumph in the United Kingdom, the Sri Lankans banked a formidable second-innings total of 457 all out – and soon reduced the reply to a whimpering 57 for five.

Continuing the dominance started by captain Angelo Mathews' convincing century, fast bowler Dhammika Prasad romped through four top-order wickets before spinner Rangana Herath added a fifth.

Prasad, named in the Test XI for the first time since January 2013, justified a much-anticipated recall entirely. Removing Cook, the in-form Gary Ballance, the Australian-born Sam Robson and the veteran Ian Bell in quick succession, the right-armer benefited from lateral movement through the air and in-swing off the seam.

Cook, who earlier surpassed former opening batsman as England's fifth highest Test run-scorer, received arguably the least threatening delivery of the day in the innings' 16th over. Eager to pull some shoddy, short length, the left-hander succeeded only in chopping the ball onto the stumps. Now without a Test century for 24 innings, the pressure on the skipper's shoulders is possibly insurmountable.

England's bowlers struggled throughout the day, as Mathews and the lower-order capitalised. Welcoming a career-best 160, which included 25 boundaries and a solitary six, the visiting captain enjoyed particluarly fruitful alliances with the cavalier Rangana Herath and Shaminda Eranga.

Herath and Eranga struck 48 and 20 respectively, cashing in against a host attack far too eager to explore the short ball than a full, straight channel. All-rounder Liam Plunkett, who enjoyed a five-for in the first innings, complemented the haul with four more – and was a cut above fellow right-armers Chris Jordan, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

The talented Joe Root and inexperienced Moeen Ali will resume on six not out and zero not out respectively on Tuesday. The latter might not have remained – had the Decision Review System not overturned a late caught-behind decision.

While Prasad enjoyed the bulk of the limelight, conditions are proving increasingly promising for turn, leaving Herath as the central force ahead of an intriguing fifth and final day.

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