June 16, 2002

Weather prevents Sri Lanka from taking further punishment

It came as something of a merciful relief when rain and bad light caused the umpires to call of play in the 16th over of Sri Lanka's second innings. They appeared thoroughly demoralised having been forced to follow on with a deficit of 259 while they had only reduced that by 63 runs for the loss of one wicket at the close. Meanwhile, England's attack, deprived of the services of the injured Andrew Caddick, had lost its bite second time around and will benefit from a night's rest before attempting to finish the job on the morrow.

Sri Lanka started the day at 130 for four, which was effectively for five because of the finger injury to Marvan Atapattu that will make it extremely unlikely that he will take any further part in the match. England were keen for an early breakthrough if they were to make the most of the position they had achieved in this badly truncated contest.

There was an early chance to take a wicket when Mahela Jayawardene hooked Alex Tudor to deep backward square leg where Ashley Giles was lurking for that very eventuality. Giles, however, spilled the chance low down to his left. In Tudor's next over, Jayawardene repeated the stroke and this time top edged the ball straight up into the air. Tudor would trust nobody else to take the catch and completed the job himself.

Just when Sri Lanka needed a steady partnership, Kumar Sangakkara played a drive of unimaginable looseness to edge Matthew Hoggard to first slip and the rot had set in.

Nasser Hussain astutely recognised that Aravinda De Silva was getting tucked up by lifting deliveries, of which there was no shortage. No sooner had the captain positioned himself at leg gully than De Silva fended a ball from Andrew Flintoff off his body and Hussain took a neat catch, the planning of which will have given him as much pleasure as the execution.

England had to wait another 20 overs before tasting success again as Sanath Jayasuriya and Hashan Tillakeratne defied the attack. Apart from a few airy flashes, they did not look unduly troubled until Tillakeratne swept Giles high to deep mid-wicket and Flintoff did the rest.

That was the signal for a quick end to the innings with the final four wickets falling in the space of ten overs. The new ball accounted for Sanath Jayasuriya who fell lbw to Hoggard. Eric Upashantha tried to leave a ball from Tudor to be given out caught behind, although replays suggested that the ball probably struck the arm guard rather than either bat or glove. And after a comical interlude when Muttiah Muralitharan swung and missed at a barrage of short balls, he eventually edged one to the 'keeper off Tudor who was the pick of the bowlers.

The batsmen will find it hard to view the fall of wickets with any sort of peace of mind, while the bowlers who had worked hard to enforce the follow on lacked a certain edge second time around without the same percentage of potentially wicket-taking deliveries.

Jayasuriya, who had intended to drop down the order in this match, was pressed into opening service once again in Atapattu's absence. He survived until the ninth over of the innings when he dragged a ball from Hoggard onto his stumps. Russel Arnold appeared comfortable in the opener's role and prevented further inroads from the bowlers with Sangakkara until the early close. They might well require another intervention from the weather if they are going to stave off a second defeat in the three-match series on the final day.