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England set out on historic chase against Sri Lanka

England recovered from two crucial blows to stay afloat in their tough run chase to win the first cricket Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Wednesday.

The tourists, set a history-defying target of 340, reached 111 for two by stumps on the third day on a dry pitch that has made batting progressively difficult.

The world number one Test side lost openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook cheaply, before Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen repaired the damage by adding 63 for the unbroken third wicket.

Trott was unbeaten on 40 and Pietersen was on 29, with England still needing 229 runs with eight wickets in hand to win the Test and take the lead in the two-match series.

England, who will slip to number two behind South Africa if they lose the series, have never chased down such a big fourth-innings target before in their Test history.

Their highest successful chase is 332-7 against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground way back in 1928. In Asia, it is 209-1 against Bangladesh in Dhaka in March, 2010.

England's task has been made tougher since 253 is the highest fourth-innings total made at the Galle International Stadium.

Graeme Swann
Graeme Swann (2nd from left) celebrates the fall of a Sri Lankan wicket. Pic/AFP 

England off-spinner Graeme Swann, who claimed six wickets in Sri Lanka's second inings total of 214, dismissed suggestions that history was not on his team's side.

"History is meant to be re-written," said Swann. "This is 2012. It does not matter what happened years ago.

"I would say we are the favourites. We just need a bit of old fashioned grit to win from here. Keep out the good balls and wait for the loose ones.

"It's a good pitch to bowl on, its also a good pitch to bat on. If people apply themselves and put their heads down, they will be hard to dismiss."

Cook, who scored 14, was given out caught at the wicket off Rangana Herath through the Decision Review System after on-field umpire Rod Tucker had negated the appeal.

Herath, whose left-arm spin fetched him six wickets in the first innings, dismissed Strauss for 27 when the England captain failed to keep an on-drive down and was caught at short mid-wicket.

Pietersen was lucky to be still there at stumps after being dropped by Kumar Sangakkara at backward short-leg off Suraj Randiv when he was on 12.

The hosts had been reduced to 127-8 just before lunch, a lead of 252 runs, when wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene stepped in to hit an unbeaten 61 in the company of tailenders.

Jayawardene, who was caught off a Stuart Broad no-ball when on 29, put on 40 for the ninth wicket with Chanaka Welegedara (13) and 47 for the 10th with Suranga Lakmal (13).

The wicket-keeper said Sri Lanka will fancy their chances of winning since England still had a long way to go.

"The psychological pressure is on them (England)," said Jayawardene. "They still have more than 200 runs to make and it won't be easy because the wicket is turning quite a bit.

"But we have to be patient and do the basics right. We have the bowlers to win this match, so I am not worried at all."

The overnight pair of Dinesh Chandimal and Suraj Randiv took their sixth-wicket partnership to 42, before both batsmen fell in the space of one run.

Chandimal, who made 31, gifted his wicket for the second time in the match when he attempted a big shot off Monty Panesar and only managed to sky a catch to Pietersen at mid-off.

Randiv was declared leg-before by TV official Bruce Oxenford after he challenged on-field umpire Asad Rauf's decision, giving Swann his fifth wicket in the innings.

Herath became Swann's sixth victim when he was bowled trying to sweep the off-spinner.

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