Sri Lanka make marvellous escape

A defiant rearguard action and some bad light prevented England from securing victory at Lord’s, as Sri Lanka pulled off a marvellous escape.

The day began with their last two recognised batsman at the crease, and with a slender lead of 22. Debutant Chamara Kapugedera was soon gifted a life by the usually safe Flintoff at slip, but he soon made up for it by dismissing him caught behind shortly afterwards. With Chaminda Vaas keeping things steady at the other end, Tillakaratne Dilshan was able to bring up his half century. He wasn’t able to hang around for too much longer though, as Liam Plunkett found the edge and more importantly, a rare catch was held at slip.

This brought Nuwan Kulasekera to the crease with Vaas. The pair had shared a frustrating partnership of 61 in the first innings, but something of greater magnitude was required here. When Kulasekera was on 14, Alistair Cook shelled a relatively simple chance at gully, yet another drop from England’s slip cordon. Kulasekera took full advantage of his let-off and was batting with much more ability than his number ten slot implied, while Vaas used all his experience to hang in at the other end. The lead inched up, but more importantly the amount of overs left was falling.

17 overs into the partnership, the third new ball was taken by Flintoff, who hoped this would get him the vital breakthrough. He was to be disappointed. Kulasekera and Vaas were able to see off the shine, and Monty Panesar was introduced with the ball still relatively new. Kulasekera took the opportunity to swipe the slow-left-armer into the stands twice, bringing up his maiden half-century in the process. He progressed to 64, before he picked out Kevin Pietersen with a hook, ending his 133-ball effort. Together with Vaas he put on 105 runs in over 45 overs, which went a long way to saving the match. This brought Muttiah Muralitharan to the crease who had to negotiate one ball from Flintoff, striking him on the glove, before bad light intervened.

A short break for bad light took six overs out of the day, leaving 28.5 overs left with Sri Lanka 167 ahead. Flintoff withdrew himself from the attack once he finished his over, his 51st of the innings. With Vaas and Muralitharan putting everything into their defence, another chance was grounded. Paul Collingwood was not able to hang on to a fairly difficult chance at backward point as Vaas attempted to force the single. This would prove to be England’s last chance of the match. The ball after Vaas brought up his 50 off 188 balls, the umpires offered the light to the batsmen, which was taken with no hesitation. The players would not return to the middle, and Sri Lanka secured a draw, something which looked very unlikely 2 days ago.

England’s bowlers toiled manfully throughout the day, but rewards just didn’t come their way. Sri Lanka’s tail played out of their skin, but England also made it harder for themselves by dropping nine catches in the match.

England 551-6 dec.
Kevin Pietersen 158, Marcus Trescothick 106, Alistair Cook 89
Muttiah Muralitharan 3-158, Chaminda Vaas 2-124

Sri Lanka 192 all out
Mahela Jayawardene 61, Chaminda Vaas 31, Nuwan Kulasekera 29
Matthew Hoggard 4-27, Sajid Mahmood 3-50

Sri Lanka 537-9 (f/o)
Mahela Jayawardene 119, Tillakaratne Dilshan 69, Kumar Sangakkara 65
Monty Panesar 2-49, Matthew Hoggard 2-110

Match Drawn

Cricket Web Man of the Match:Mahela Jayawardene

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