May 18, 2002

Sri Lanka in control as England follow on

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England face a Herculean task if they are to stave off defeat by Sri Lanka in the first Test of the three-match series. With two days' play remaining at Lord's England, following on 280 behind, are 53 without loss. At one point placed promisingly at 203 for three in their first innings, they lost five wickets for 34 runs, enabling Sri Lanka to take a vice-like grip on the game.

After a 20-minute delay this morning because of rain, England began under grey skies in conditions far removed from those of the first two days. Butcher and Vaughan exchanged sharp singles, and the former also made the most of a legside delivery from Buddika, clipping it through midwicket. But the bowler extracted full retribution in his next over as the Surrey left-hander edged to third slip, where Jayawardene took a fine catch moving to his right.

Hussain, after squeezing Buddika to the rope at third man, immediately took four more with the shot of the morning, rattling the boundary board at extra cover. As Buddika's line wavered, he was dispatched through square leg to give Hussain three boundaries off three balls. Vaughan took two boundaries off consecutive overs from Vaas, the first squeezed between third slip and gully, the second a pedigree cover drive. A double change by Jayasuriya introduced the third left-armer, Ruchira Perera, whom Hussain greeted first with a perfectly-timed drive through long off, then with an exquisite cut backward of point. A push to leg from Vaughan hoisted the 50 partnership off 81 balls, and another classic off drive from Vaughan brought up the 100.

The England captain completed his eighth 50 in nine Tests with a single to long leg off Zoysa. The hundred partnership came up in the 36th over, as Hussain again took advantage of the lack of a third man with four wide of second slip. Spitting rain prompted a conference between umpires Venkat and Harper, and it might have been better for Hussain if they had gone off. As Zoysa moved the ball away up the hill he found the England captain's outside edge for Sangakkara to take a fine catch diving to his right.

Vaughan went to his 50 with a well-timed clip for three to mid-wicket. An edge from Thorpe flew wide of second slip to give him his first boundary, but the Surrey left-hander then looked more composed as he clipped Zoysa to the rope at mid-wicket. Another peach of a cover drive from Vaughan brought up England's 200, and the Lord's crowd were beginning to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately for them and for England, that was as good as it got.

Apparently well set on 64, Vaughan got underneath a hook off Perera, the ball finishing in the hands of Zoysa at long leg. Thorpe was lbw to Perera's next ball to leave England back in the danger zone at 203 for five. Stewart avoided the hat-trick, seeing England through to tea with Crawley. But England began the final session suicidally, as Crawley set off for a non-existent single after pushing Buddika into the covers. A direct hit by the substitute fielder, Upul Chandana, left Stewart well short of his ground, and there was no need to call on the third umpire for a decision.

As the cloud gave way to broken sunshine, Flintoff began with three meaty boundaries, before driving firm-footed at Buddika, Sangakkara pouching the resulting edge. Cork made almost the briefest of appearances, his second-ball dismissal a near carbon copy of Flintoff's.

Caddick kept Crawley company for as long as could reasonably be expected, dispatching Vaas impressively through extra cover. Attempting something similar off Perera, he edged to Sangakkara. Joined by the number 11 Matthew Hoggard, Crawley farmed the strike as Perera was warned by umpire Harper for running on the pitch, but was then last out for 31, caught behind (Sangakkara's fifth catch of the innings) off Vaas.

When England went in again, their plight seemed hardly imaginable. After a booming drive to the long-on boundary, Trescothick took another to third man after a diving Atapattu failed to get a hand to a half-chance at gully. Four more followed though mid-wicket, and Vaughan took advantage of a Zoysa half-volley with a boundary through extra cover.

As the close approached the two batted with increasing caution, and Jayasuriya turned to spin for the first time in the form of de Silva. A Trescothick square cut off Perera brought up England's 50, but when bad light ended play seven overs early they were still 227 runs behind.