Southampton, Jun 20 : Sri Lanka is facing an uphill battle to save the third and final test at the Rose Bowl after slumping to 112-3 by the close of day four, still 81 runs adrift of dominant England on Sunday.
A stylish 119 not out by the prolific Ian Bell helped England to a first-innings lead of 193 runs before captain Andrew Strauss declared on 377-8, giving his bowling unit a little over four sessions to dismiss the tourists and clinch a 2-0 series victory.
After losing openers Tharanga Paranavitana (10) and Lahiru Thirimanne (38), Stuart Broad took the key wicket of Mahela Jayawardene (6), leaving captain Kumar Sangakkara (44 not out) and nightwatchman Rangana Herath (2 not out) to steer the Sri Lankans to stumps.
A forecast of inclement weather could be the biggest obstacle for England going into the final day of a rain-disrupted test.
Underpinned by Bell's third century in his last five test innings, England added 182 runs to the overnight total of 195-4 before a positive declaration gave the team's bowlers an ideal platform to attack the Sri Lankans.
After meeting early resistance, two breakthroughs in the final hour left the hosts in an even more convincing position.
Broad's sole success in the first innings was the wicket of tailender Chanaka Welegedara and he has struggled for scalps this series. But he built up a head of steam in the second innings, raw pace and bounce helping to rough up his adversaries before enticing a nick behind from Jayawardene to wicketkeeper Matt Prior for a crucial wicket.
The Sri Lankans made painstaking progress, scoring at little more than two runs an over, while their conservatism was dovetailed with some aggressive deliveries that pinned them back.
Paranavitana, who was dropped by Prior with the score at 14-0, fell 11 runs later when he was caught low down by Swann at second slip off the bowling of James Anderson.
Thirimanne and Sangakkara, who both made centuries at Essex in warmup match at Chelmsford, added 61 runs between them before the former -- who was rapped on the hand by a lifter from Broad -- edge high to Strauss at first slip, giving Tremlett a deserved wicket.
Earlier, Bell and Morgan dealt dismissively with some lackluster bowling from Sri Lanka's pace attack, a 137-run stand for the sixth wicket ending any slim chance the tourists had of winning the test.
Bell, enjoying the form of his life and dismissed only once this series, collected 12 boundaries through a series of caressed drives and late cuts that are starting to become his trademark. His shot of the day was an exquisite push through extra cover for four to bring up England's 250.
This series, Bell has struck an unbeaten 103 in England's first-test victory in Cardiff and followed that up with 52 and 57 not out in the draw at Lord's. The Warwickshire batsman has made at least fifty in each of his last five test matches.
As England gradually stepped up the run rate in a push for victory, the shots became more agricultural and Morgan perished selflessly when he advanced down the pitch going after Lakmal, only succeeding in gifting wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene a fourth catch of the innings.
Prior, to his second ball, and Broad both fell for ducks as England lost three wickets for 12 runs, prompting the declaration from Strauss 35 minutes before tea.
Anderson had been the first to depart in Sri Lanka's only wicket of the morning session, the nightwatchman making a brisk 27 off 33 balls before nicking Welegedara behind.Right-arm paceman Lakmal had team-best bowling figures for Sri Lanka of 3-99. AP