Party poopers: Sri Lankan ground staff bring out the
dreaded covers [AFP] 
Alastair Cook scored an unbeaten fifty to help England reach 102 for one before heavy rain washed out the final two sessions on the fourth day of the third test against Sri Lanka.

Battling to avoid a second loss of the series, England resumed on 2-0, having been asked to follow-on the previous evening after being bowled out for a woeful 81 in 30.5 overs in response to the home side's 499-8 declared.

When play eventually restarts on Saturday, the tourists will need 316 runs to avoid an innings defeat in the final test of the three-match series.

Cook, who added 67 for the first wicket with skipper Michael Vaughan (24), was on 53 when play was halted with Ian Bell on 17.

The rain started just before the lunch break and intensified during the afternoon forcing the umpires to call off play for good shortly after the scheduled tea break.

"The rain is helping us save the game, but what happened yesterday was a very bad day," Cook said.

"It was a tough day yesterday, the way the Sri Lankans bowled was quite fantastic. The ball nipped around a bit and they bowled balls in the grey areas and we made mistakes.

"I think the pitch has lost just a half a yard of pace. It was the zip that caused some kind of trouble yesterday.

"It was slightly easy to bat today and hopefully it will be the same tomorrow. Today we came out and showed the type of character we've got."

Vaughan was the only casualty of the morning, caught at second slip after edging a delivery from test-debutant left-armer Chanaka Welegedera.

England's showed far great application during the morning and looked more comfortable at the crease than in the first innings.

Sri Lanka lead the series 1-0 after winning the first test in Kandy.

Source: Agencies