On Friday evening, after posting 551 for 6 declared, and having reduced Sri Lanka to 91 for 6 in their first innings, England's cricketers would have been privately contemplating the golf course on which they would this morning be celebrating a comprehensive victory. But last night, after 185 overs in the field, Andrew Flintoff's side will have been mulling over the perils of scoring runs, however few, against Muttiah Muralitharan on a wearing pitch.
England still ought to win the first Test against Sri Lanka comfortably today but the glorious batting of Mahela Jayawardene, who scored a wonderful 119, and the dogged resistance of several of his team-mates, have shown Flintoff and his team that they will not get things all their own way during the three-match series.
England's position would have been a trifle more worrying but for a glaring error by umpire Aleem Dar, who upheld an appeal for a catch behind from Flintoff in the evening gloom. Replays showed the ball had clearly flicked Jayawardene's sweater, and the Sri Lankan captain looked distraught when he saw Dar raise his finger. The dismissal gave Geraint Jones his 100th wicket for England 20 minutes before bad light ended play with Sri Lanka on 381 for 6 in their second innings.
Jayawardene walked off rubbing his chest, behaviour that can get a player in trouble with the match referee, but the Sri Lankan captain deserves sympathy, not a fine. With Jayawardene still at the crease, Sri Lanka would have believed they could still produce something remarkable but with only four wickets remaining the chances are slim.
So how many would England, who are currently 22 runs in arrears, feel comfortable chasing on the final day of a Test? Fifty? It would be a doddle. One hundred? It should still be comfortable. One hundred and fifty? It is getting interesting. One hundred and eighty? Now we are talking.
Had Jayawardene been caught on 58 by Andrew Strauss at slip off the bowling of Matthew Hoggard - who took his 200th Test wicket on Saturday - golf would have been back on the agenda. But apart from this chance Jayawardene's batting was perfect. He moved his feet beautifully, collected the easy runs and sent the bad balls scuttling to the boundary. This was his second Test hundred at Lord's in his second appearance. The best batsmen in the world tend to raise their game when they are on the biggest stage.
England will have been disappointed not to take any wickets during a morning session that provided their fast bowlers with perfect conditions. The weather and a couple of umpiring decisions have been kind to England. When Flintoff won the toss on Thursday morning there was not a cloud in the sky, and these conditions prevailed during England's entire innings.
Yet, within 30 minutes of the Sri Lankan batsmen strapping on their pads, cloud covered the ground, changing the meteorological conditions entirely. And here it has remained for the majority of the last two and a half days, giving England's seamers plenty to work with. Most former England captains state that they looked at the sky and not the pitch before deciding what to do at the toss here and had conditions been as they were yesterday morning Flintoff would have chosen to bowl rather than bat.
Sri Lanka's batsmen needed to put in a more determined display than Friday's timid one. And they have. The tourists began the fourth day on 183 for 3 and England's first objective was to dismiss the nightwatchman Farveez Maharoof.
Jason Gillespie, who scored a double ton for Australia against Bangladesh in April, highlighted what a nuisance nightwatchmen can be and yesterday England must have feared that Maharoof might do the same. Maharoof, who spent the summer of 2003 in north London playing for Stanmore Cricket Club, is a far better batsman than Gillespie and he displayed this during his two and three-quarter hours at the crease.
He was dropped by Paul Collingwood at slip on 30 but he played some wonderful shots during his 59. The best of these came off Liam Plunkett whom, in consecutive balls, he drove for four and pulled into the Grandstand for six to bring up his half century.
Plunkett has yet to take a wicket on his home debut but he was the pick of England's attack. Running in hard from the Nursery End the 21-year-old swung the ball away at a lively pace and extracted inconsistent bounce from a wearing pitch. Plunkett beat the bat regularly and deserved a couple of wickets.
These went to Sajid Mahmood, who tried hard but failed to find the rhythm and pace that saw him make such a dramatic start to his Test career. Maharoof was the first to fall to the Lancastrian when he drove loosely and was caught by Kevin Pietersen at extra cover. And 12 balls later Thilan Samaraweera cut wildly at a Mahmood long hop and was caught behind.
The disappointing crowd - around 12,500 - gave Monty Panesar an ironic but loving cheer on each occasion he touched the ball, but much of England's cricket lacked intensity. It suggested they felt they just needed to turn up and Sri Lanka would roll over.
Flintoff, as is to be expected, gave it his all but there were times when he possibly tried to be too creative. As a bowler he is aware of what a bowler wants, namely a good six-over or seven-over spell, but in the morning bowlers were completing two-over spells here and there.
Panesar suffered with these tactics most, bowling just a four-over and a two-over spell on the day after taking two crucial top-order wickets. All but two of his 21 overs were delivered from the Pavilion End, from where left-arm spinners rarely bowl.
Scoreboard from Lord's
England won toss
England - First Innings 551 for 6 dec (K P Pietersen 158, M E Trescothick 106, A N Cook 89, P D Collingwood 57).
Sri Lanka - First Innings
(Friday: 91 for 6)
J Mubarak lbw b Hoggard 0
9 min, 7 balls
W U Tharanga lbw b Hoggard 10
31 min, 21 balls, 2 fours
ÝK C Sangakkara c Trescothick b Mahmood 21
102 min, 64 balls, 3 fours
*D P M D Jayawardene c Jones b Flintoff 61
168 min, 118 balls, 9 fours
T T Samaraweera lbw b Mahmood 0
8 min, 4 balls
T M Dilshan run out (Hoggard-Jones) 0
8 min, 3 balls
C K Kapugedera lbw b Mahmood 0
1 min, 1 ball
M F Maharoof c and b Hoggard 22
59 min, 37 balls, 3 fours
W P U C J Vaas c Trescothick b Hoggard 31
69 min, 36 balls, 4 fours
K M D N Kulasekara c Strauss b Flintoff 29
65 min, 52 balls, 4 fours
M Muralitharan not out 0
3 min, 0 balls
Extras (lb8 nb10) 18
Total (266 min, 55.3 overs) 192
Fall (cont): 1-0 (Mubarak) 2-21 (Tharanga) 3-81 (Sangakkara) 4-81 (Samaraweera) 5-85 (Dilshan) 6-85 (Kapugedera) 7-129 (Maharoof) 8-131 (Jayawardene) 9-192 (Vaas) 10-192 (Kulasekera).
Bowling: Hoggard 14-4-27-4 (nb2) (7-1-14-2, 4-2-7-0, 2-0-6-1, 1-1-0-1); Flintoff 17.3-2-55-2 (nb3) (4-1-11-0, 3-0-7-0, 4-1-11-0, 4-0-15-1, 2.3-0-11-1); Plunkett 11-0-52-0 (nb5) (6-0-32-0, 5-0-20-0); Mahmood 13-2-50-3 (10-2-33-3, 3-0-17-0).
Progress: Second day: 50: 74 min, 14.1 overs. Bad light stopped play 6.09pm; close 91-6 (Jayawardene 40, Maharoof 6) 30 overs. Third day: 100: 160 min, 32.5 overs. 150: 222 min, 45.2 overs. Innings closed 12.56pm; early lunch taken.
Jayawardene's 50: 143 min, 102 balls, 7 fours
Sri Lanka - Second Innings
(Overnight: 183 for 3)
J Mubarak b Hoggard 6
18 min, 14 balls
W U Tharanga c Jones b Panesar 52
163 min, 126 balls, 7 fours
ÝK C Sangakkara c Jones b Panesar 65
226 min, 156 balls, 6 fours
*D P M D Jayawardene c Jones b Flintoff 119
364 min, 220 balls, 12 fours, 1 five
M F Maharoof c Pietersen b Mahmood 59
165 min, 145 balls, 7 fours, 1 six
T T Samaraweera c Jones b Mahmood 6
20 min, 12 balls
T M Dilshan not out 39
119 min, 93 balls, 6 fours
C K Kapugedera not out 5
23 min, 18 balls
Extras (b9 lb15 w2 nb4) 30
Total (for 6, 552 min, 130 overs) 381
Fall: 1-10 (Mubarak) 2-119 (Tharanga) 3-178 (Sangakkara) 4-291 (Maharoof) 5-303 (Samaraweera) 6-371 (Jayawardene).
To bat: W P U C J Vaas, K M D N Kulasekara, M Muralitharan.
Bowling: Hoggard 32-5-72-1 (7-3-14-1, 1-0-4-0, 5-1-8-0, 4-0-10-0, 4-0-4-0, 8-0-30-0, 3-1-2-0); Flintoff 31-5-86-1 (4-1-6-0, 3-0-17-0, 3-0-9-0, 4-1-9-0, 2-0-4-0, 5-1-13-0, 6-1-18-0, 4-1-10-1); Mahmood 21-1-81-2 (w1) (2-0-9-0, 3-0-8-0, 5-1-18-0, 2-0-10-0, 7-0-30-2, 2-0-6-0); Plunkett 19-4-69-0 (nb2) (3-1-12-0, 4-1-16-0, 5-1-13-0, 7-1-28-0); Collingwood 6-1-12-0 (nb2 w1) (5-1-10-0, 1-0-2-0); Panesar 21-6-37-2 (12-3-25-1, 3-2-1-1, 4-1-8-0, 2-0-3-0).
Progress: Third day: 50: 77 min, 17.3 overs. Tea: 93-1 (Tharanga 41, Sangakkara 30) 29 overs. 100: 136 min, 32.2 overs. 150: 216 min, 52.5 overs. Close: 183-3 (Jayawardene 35, Maharoof 5) 64 overs. Fourth day: 200: 285 min, 69.3 overs. New ball taken after 82 overs at 231-3. 250: 372 min, 90.1 overs. Lunch: 258-3 (Jayawardene 70, Maharoof 38) 93 overs. 300: 428 min, 103 overs. Bad light stopped play 3.07-3.41pm, early tea taken 339-5 (Jayawardene 103, Dilshan 18) 111 overs. 350: 484 min, 114.4 overs. BLSP 4.31-5.28pm 369-5 (Jayawardene 117, Dilshan 34) 123 overs. BLSP 6.01pm.
Tharanga's 50: 145 min, 115 balls, 7 fours. Sangakkara's 50: 179 min, 121 balls, 4 fours. Jayawardene's 50: 138 min, 98 balls, 6 fours. 100: 300 min, 191 balls, 11 fours, 1 five. Maharoof's 50: 153 min, 133 balls, 5 fours, 1 six.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and R E Koertzen (SA).
TV replay umpire: N J Llong.
Match referee: A G Hurst.