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England close in on victory in Sri Lanka

© AFP | Sri Lanka's captain Dinesh Chandimal was bowled by Leach for 11

GALLE (SRI LANKA) (AFP) - 

England strode towards victory in the first Test in Galle on Friday, claiming four quick wickers either side of tea as thunderstorms held off.

In pursuit of a notional 462 for victory, the hosts were 211-7 just after the tea break, with spinners Jack Leach and Moeen Ali claiming three wickets apiece.

Openers Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne withstood the pressure for the first hour but both fell after attacking shots,

Kaushal was leg before sweeping Leach for 30 and Karunaratne skipped down the pitch and was caught and bowled by Ali for 26.

Dhananjaya de Silva, after a confident start, was caught at first slip by skipper Joe Root off Ben Stokes in the last over of the morning session for 21.

One ball earlier, de Silva had been given out caught behind flashing at a Stokes delivery wide of the off stump, but he was reprieved on review.

After lunch Kusal Mendis hit Leach for four over his head but attempting a repeat the next ball spooned the ball to Moeen and departed for 46.

He had earlier appeared confident at the crease, employing the sweep shot especially well against all England?s spinners, while secure in defence.

Home skipper Dinesh Chandimal, suffering from a groin injury that kept him off the pitch all of Thursday, was bowled by Leach for 11.

The final session began badly for the hosts. Niroshan Dikwella fell the first ball after tea, caught adroitly by Stokes one-handed at slip off Ali for 16.

Soon afterwards Angelo Mathews, dropped on 18 by James Anderson, went for 53, was caught by Jos Buttler at midwicket with Ali the wicker-taker again.

England's varied attack, with three quicks and three spinners, applied substantial pressure, with the slightly expensive Adil Rashid the only disappointment so far.

Stokes said before the day's play that he expected Moeen, Leach and Rashid to do the most damage, with the ball spinning ever more quickly off the pitch.

"If our spinners can get the ball in the right area on a consistent basis then I think it's going to make it really hard work for the Sri Lankans," the Durham all-rounder had said.

England secured a first innings lead of 139 and on Thursday an unbeaten 146 by Keaton Jennings, his first century since a ton on his 2016 debut, allowed Root to declare at 322 for six.

© 2018 AFP