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.
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.
“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.
His Test comeback has been a great success to date and Buttler explained that is partially down to an ability to compartmentalise his explosive limited-overs methods.
“A lot of people in my career, for a number of years, have said ‘why don’t you bat like you do in one-day cricket?’ but I’ve never quite seen it like that. If it was possible then more people would have done it.
“Someone like Adam Gilchrist…if you watch the highlights package it’s incredible but there’s other hard work that goes on around that. I don’t think it’s possible to play in that fashion all the time.
“What I try to do is look at the scoreboard and play accordingly. I probably trust my defence more than I used to in years gone by. That’s allowed me to occupy the crease better.”