May 19, 2002

Sri Lanka held up by brave England fightback

Michael Vaughan made Sri Lanka pay for two missed catches as he scored his second Test hundred, giving England a possible escape route in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's. Widely criticised for their performance over the first three days, England showed character and resolve to reach 321 for two in their second innings by the close on the fourth day, 41 runs ahead.

The day began with Ruchira Perera, at the centre of throwing allegations on TV and radio, bowling just one ball (a bouncer) to complete his unfinished over from the previous evening. The first full over, from Buddika, was packed with incident. After scoring two boundaries Vaughan was dropped at first slip, a low but straightforward chance to Jayasuriya. The reprieved batsman drove the next ball to the rope at extra cover.

Zoysa replaced Perera and to universal astonishment Vaughan, on 33, was dropped for the second time. Jayasuriya was again the culprit at first slip, the chance no harder than the previous one off Buddika. Trescothick, the more subdued partner at the outset, then survived two good lbw shouts from Buddika on 41, the first of which looked very close indeed.

When Zoysa made way for Perera Trescothick brought up England's hundred alongside his own 50 with a resonant on-drive. Four for Vaughan to backward point off Vaas established a record opening partnership for England against Sri Lanka, before Vaughan joined Trescothick on 50 with a crisp single to extra cover.

Perera's return was short-lived - two overs for 13 - before Jayasuriya came on for the first time in the match. His fourth ball produced another boundary for Vaughan as he leaned into a drive, finding the gap between extra cover and mid-off. A deft late cut brought Trescothick three, before Vaughan took four with an almost identical stroke in the same over. When Fernando dropped short Trescothick pulled him to the Tavern boundary at mid-wicket.

England lost Trescothick in controversial circumstances, given out lbw to Zoysa for 76 (135 balls, seven fours) by umpire Harper. Replays clearly showed he had got an inside edge. That was 168 for one, ending the highest opening partnership for England since Mike Atherton and Mark Butcher put on 179 against South Africa at Edgbaston in 1998.

Jayasuriya brought on de Silva with Vaughan on 92, and he drove his first two balls for two and four. Butcher then took a highly risky single off de Silva, and would have been run out had Buddika's shy at the stumps been on target. Next ball, Vaughan took another tight single to bring up his second Test hundred. England's 200 came up (off 364 balls) with a single to Butcher off de Silva.

Vaughan fell shortly before tea on 115 (18 fours, 219 balls), to the second ball of a new spell from Perera, edging to Sangakkara to leave England at 213 for two. Butcher and Hussain started sedately after the interval, and it wasn't until his 84th ball that Butcher scored his first boundary. Hussain produced a cracking square drive off Perera in the next over, but followed it with a dreadful cross-batted swish which was some way from making contact.

Jayasuriya, back on the field after treatment on an injured thumb, returned to bowl his slow left arm at the nursery end, and a no ball from Perera brought up the 250. The pace slowed to a crawl, but Sri Lanka's frustration grew as Butcher and Hussain clung limpet-like to the crease.

Hussain broke the stranglehold by taking two steps down the wicket to hit Jayasuriya back over his head for six. It brought up the 50 partnership (off 155 balls) and was enough to persuade Jayasuriya to take the new ball, ten overs after it had become available.

A cover-driven boundary by Hussain off Vaas took off some of the shine as the England captain moved to 37, and Hussain finally wiped off the arrears with a delightful square cut off Zoysa. Perhaps relieved by the breakthrough, Butcher then took successive boundaries off Vaas through extra cover and mid-wicket. The Surrey left-hander reached a laboured but invaluable 50 (off 162 balls) with two to mid-wicket off Buddika.

A cover-driven boundary followed to raise the 100 partnership, and England's captain rounded off an excellent day by driving Buddika through mid-off to complete his second 50 of the match. Failing light prompted a conference between umpires Harper and Venkat, and when Hussain was hit on the chest by a ball from Vaas, it was enough to persuade them to call off play for the day with less than nine overs remaining.