London, June 12: An extraordinary flag protest by Sri Lanka following an incorrect no-ball call overshadowed a rain-marred fourth day of the third Test at Lord's today (June 12) that left the tourists struggling to avoid a series whitewash against England.
At stumps, Sri Lanka were 32 without loss in their second innings, needing a further 330 runs on Monday's (June 13) final day to reach an imposing victory target of 362.
But come stumps the talking point wasn't whether Sri Lanka could prevent England sweeping the series 3-0 but rather a fresh controversy regarding cricket's strained relationship with technology.
After rain prevented any play before lunch, England resumed on 109 for four, a lead of 237 runs. Alex Hales was 41 not out and nightwatchman Steven Finn six not out.
Hales had moved on to 45 when Sunday's third ball saw him survive a confident lbw appeal from Sri Lanka paceman Shaminda Eranga.
Indian umpire S Ravi ruled in Hales's favour but the Sri Lankans reviewed, only for a marginal 'umpire's call' verdict from the Decision Review System to spare the batsman. Hales had moved on to 58 when Nuwan Pradeep knocked his off-stump with a ball that kept low.
But Australian umpire Rod Tucker had already called a no-ball. Replays suggested Pradeep's front foot may have been behind the crease but fielding teams are unable to challenge a no-ball call by an umpire and Hales survived.
In February, a similar incident saw Australia's Adam Voges make 239 in a Test against New Zealand in Wellington after being reprieved on seven following an incorrectly called no-ball by English umpire Richard Illingworth.
Under current International Cricket Council regulations, the third umpire is powerless to intervene in such situations. Sri Lanka team manager Charith Senanayake, a former Test opener, and coach Graham Ford approached match referee Andy Pycroft to register their unhappiness.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka flag was draped over the tourists' dressing-room balcony for some 45 minutes in protest at the decision.
"You feel a little down, it is sad," Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilinga Sumathipala told reporters.
"The management on tour is very sad about that decision. It will be reported to the ICC."
Asked to explain how the flag protest came about, he added: "It must have been the team to show the management's feelings on the field.
"It is to say 'Boys get together, it is not the end of the world, we are still fighting for the match so therefore play for the country.' It is a symbol."
The ICC's cricket committee have called for a change in the regulations but that will be of little comfort to Sri Lanka.