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Buttler and Stokes key with England close to whitewash

 

By Rory Dollard

Jos Buttler admitted feeling "an element of disbelief" as Sri Lanka spinner Lakshan Sandakan twice reprieved Ben Stokes by over-stepping, helping England move one step closer to a 3-0 whitewash in Colombo.

A clean sweep away from home has only been achieved by two other England sides, in series of at least three Tests, but the class of 2018 need just six more wickets on day four to repeat a feat last achieved in 1963.

At 53 for four a ground-record chase of 327 looks well beyond a home side who were at least partially to blame for their predicament.

The key partnership of England's second innings was an 89-run union between Buttler and Stokes from the rocky beginnings of 39 for four, but the pair would have been parted much earlier had the all-rounder not been reprieved on 22 and 32.

On both occasions he was on his way to the pavilion only to turn back when replays saw Sandakan called for no-balling. Analysis later indicated he had been clearing the front line as often as 40 per cent of the time without being censured.

"Of course there's an element of disbelief but it's great when you get to carry on batting," said Buttler, who advocated removing the line call from the on-field duties.

"They check it every time there's a wicket and you can see it's close. It's a really tough job for the standing umpires, there's a lot going on when the ball is spinning.

"The best policy is probably if the third umpire can help out with the front foot, that would be one less thing they have to worry about and then bowlers know if they are getting too close. As a bowler I'm sure it's good to know if you are pushing that line."

Sandakan's errors did nothing to detract from the latest impressive contribution from Buttler, whose calmly-compiled 64 took the game away from Sri Lanka and extended his total to 760 runs in 18 innings since being recalled to the red-ball format.

  • Australia won the Women's T20 World Cup for the fourth time with a comfortable eight-wicket win over England in Antigua.

Ashleigh Gardner had three sixes in six balls and combined with captain Meg Lanning for a partnership of 62 to see the Southern Stars reach their target of 106 with 29 balls to spare.

England won the toss and opted to bat first but were bowled out for 105 in 19.4 overs.

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