ENGLAND bagged four quick wickets to put them in the driving seat in the deciding Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo today.

After Graham Thorpe's battling unbeaten century gave them an unexpected first-innings lead, Darren Gough and Andy Caddick worked their way through the early Sri Lankan batting.

Gough removed Marvan Atapattu for a duck and Sanath Jayasuriya for 23, and with Caddick claiming Kumar Sangakkara for nought and Aravinda de Silva for 23, the hosts slumped to 57 for four.

Earlier, resuming 76 adrift on 175 for four with Thorpe and Michael Vaughan spearheading their recovery with an unbroken 84-run partnership, the tourists lost three wickets inside the opening eight overs.

But Thorpe, given a reprieve on 73 when umpire Dave Orchard wrongly rejected an appeal for a bat-pad catch, carefully guided the tail into an eight-run lead as they were bowled out for 249 just after lunch.

Resuming on 71 overnight, Thorpe reached his century for the second time in five Tests just before the interval, hitting 10 boundaries in his five hours at the crease and closed on an unbeaten 113.

The day had begun with some controversy after umpires Dave Orchard and Asoka de Silva ruled that play should be delayed by half an hour because of a damp patch on the wicket caused by overnight condensation.

Perhaps it unsettled England because Vaas struck with his fourth and fifth balls of the day to remove Vaughan for 26 and new batsman Craig White.

Giles fell to a magnificent delivery from Vaas which seamed away late and was edged to Mahela Jayawardene at first slip.

Robert Croft picked up where he left off in the last Test, when his battling second innings 17 helped England to their dramatic victory, by helping Thorpe add 28 before a misunderstanding while attempting a quick single led to his downfall.