GALLE:England's chances of saving the Sri Lanka Test series looked over on Thursday when they were shot out for just 81, their lowest total against the hosts, in the third and final match.
Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene hit an unbeaten 213 and Chaminda Vaas ripped through the top order to leave England, trailing 0-1 in the series, in tatters on the rain-hit third day at Galle International Stadium.
Left-armer Vaas followed his 90 in Sri Lanka's 499-8 declared with four wickets as England collapsed in just 30.5 overs and were forced to follow-on 418 runs behind.
The tourists were 2-0 in their second knock in the lone over bowled by off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan with the new ball before bad light halted play for the day.
England's pathetic 81 fell below their previous low of 148 against Sri Lanka in Colombo on the previous tour in 2003.
Paul Collingwood's 29 was the top score as eight batsmen failed to reach double figures on a wicket that afforded bounce but was not treacherous, as the Sri Lankan batsmen showed.
The hosts, denied two hours of play in the post-lunch period due to heavy rain, have six sessions to force an unlikely victory and secure a 2-0 scoreline that will lift them to second place behind Australia in the official rankings.
Sri Lanka's total revolved around skipper Jayawardene's double century and his 183-run stand for the seventh wicket with Vaas before the declaration came 50 minutes before lunch.
England found themselves in deep trouble at 22-4 in the short period of play before lunch, losing captain Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen in a sensational eight-over burst.
Vaughan was declared leg-before to Vaas when he left alone an incoming delivery and Bell was run out at the non-striker's end by a direct throw from point by Tillekeratne Dilshan.
Cook was unlucky to be given out caught behind off Vaas by umpire Asad Rauf, as television replays showed the ball may have missed the outside edge of the bat.
Pietersen fended a brutish short ball from Lasith Malinga to give wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene his second catch of the innings and reduce England to 22-4.
The tourists slumped to 33-6 soon after lunch before Collingwood and Ryan Sidebottom put on 37 runs in the best partnership of the innings.
Debutant left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara bowled Collingwood to pick up his first Test wicket and then removed Matthew Hoggard to finish with 2-17 from eight overs.
Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's leading run-getter and centurion in Tests, continued to flay the England attack after making 195 in the drawn second Test in Colombo last week.
His 21st three-figure knock, which helped him surpass Aravinda de Silva's Sri Lankan record of 20 on Wednesday, was studded wih 25 hits to the fence.
It was Jayawardene's third double century in addition to a career-best 374 against South Africa in Colombo two years ago.
Left-handed Vaas missed his second Test century by 10 runs when he top-edged an intended hook off Hoggard and was caught at the second attempt by Vaughan at mid-wicket.