England snatch a dramatic Test win at Old Trafford
Vaughan and Trescothick triumphant
It was only a couple of days ago that the crowd at Old Trafford was cheering wildly as an English foot made contact with a ball. That was on Saturday when they watched England's footballers beat Denmark 3-0 in the World Cup on a giant television screen erected in the car park. Two days on, another triumphant cheer rang out as Marcus Trescothick's leg made contact with the ball and the batsmen scampered through for a leg bye to secure a 2-0 series win for England over Sri Lanka. Set 50 to win this Test in six overs, Michael Vaughan and Trescothick saw them home with all ten wickets intact and a whole over to spare.
The day began with Sri Lanka, following on in their second innings, 63 for one, still 196 away from making England bat again. Russel Arnold was batting with great application and Kumar Sangakkara was putting his problems from earlier in the tour behind him.
It was all of 17 overs before England got the breakthrough for which Nasser Hussain had been searching with a series of bowling and fielding changes. When it came, there was a slight feeling of unease among the neutrals when Sangakkara was given out lbw to Alex Tudor despite the fact that the ball had pitched a distance outside leg stump.
Mahela Jayawardene showed his class in keeping Arnold company until after the lunch interval, at which point it was looking as if Sri Lanka were inching their way towards safety, especially with Arnold so comfortable. However, Ashley Giles got a ball to turn and, importantly, to bounce to have Jayawardene taken at slip by Hussain.
There was a talking point earlier on when Jayawardene clipped a ball from Andrew Flintoff out to deep backward square leg where Matthew Hoggard caught it. The significant words were "backward" and "leg", because umpire Dave Orchard noticed that England had three fielders behind square on the leg side. Quite rightly, he called a no ball and the batsman added an easy single to his score.
Arnold - patient century
Aravinda de Silva was not inhibited by the circumstances in which he came to the middle. With Arnold, he put on 63 in 14 overs, with the bulk of the scoring coming from the delightful strokes of de Silva. He scored 40 of the runs before he faced the third ball of a new spell from Tudor. Hooking to the same deep backward square position that might have accounted for Jayawardene, this time the field was legally set and Vaughan dived fully forward to hold a superb catch only inches off the turf.
Arnold went to his century with a somewhat nervous aerial push through the covers and found a resolute partner in Hashan Tillakeratne. They took the innings into the final session when most believed that the game was safe for Sri Lanka, providing they could withstand the new ball that became available immediately after the interval. They could not.
Arnold's six-hour vigil finally came to an end when he edged Tudor to Alec Stewart behind the wicket. He had scored 109, but the value of his innings could be measured in the time he occupied the crease as well as in terms of mere runs. That could be seen as wickets tumbled after his departure.
Chaminda Vaas fell lbw to Matthew Hoggard for one, Eric Upashantha was caught behind off Flintoff for three. Suddenly England caught a glimpse of victory, only to have that view obscured by Dilhara Fernando who joined the obdurate Tillakeratne in a partnership that added only 15 to the total but took 11 overs to do so.
Now the equation of runs required and overs available came into play. As the lead extended, so the time available diminished, and although Fernando was out lbw to Giles when taking a big stride forward, it was not Muttiah Muralitharan who emerged from the pavilion. It was Marvan Atapattu, nursing his suspected fractured finger, who came out in a brave attempt to stave off defeat.
For 12 overs he survived before he too was lbw to Giles. Next ball saw substitute fielder Michael Powell from Glamorgan diving in to snap up a catch at bat/pad to give Giles another wicket and end Muralitharan's one-ball innings. More importantly, Sri Lanka were all out for 308 and the target was set.
Without the fielding restrictions of a one-day game, a scoring rate in excess of eight an over would not be easy, but England did not adjust their batting order despite the fact that Flintoff raced from the field at the fall of the last wicket in anticipation of a place high in the order. He was not needed.
With a combination of stealthy singles and clumping blows, Vaughan and Trescothick set after their quarry. Eight runs came from the first Vaas over. Fernando went for 16 from the next. Muralitharan was brought into the attack but went for ten, including a swept six by Trescothick. Could Fernando be risked again? He could, but conceded a further eight runs.
Now England were clear favourites. So to the fifth over. Eight runs were needed. Vaughan took a single, Trescothick swept a four. Then Murali produced the rarity of a dot ball, before a catch in the deep went down and they took a single. Vaughan took another off the next ball and then came the final leg bye to win a dramatic game of cricket.