Sri Lanka finish with their tails up
Close England 163 for 4 (Vaughan 52) trail Sri Lanka 382 (Dilshan 63, Fernando 51*, Giles 5-116) by 219 runs
Michael Vaughan trudges off after a quickfire 52
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Sri Lanka moved into a dominating position on the second day of the Kandy Test, finishing with a lead of 219. After Sri Lanka's tail again wagged to great effect, adding 112 for the last three wickets to reach a total of 382, England wasted a rollicking start by the openers to falter to 163 for 4 by the close.
England are still in the game, thanks partly to a brave stand between Graham Thorpe and Paul Collingwood towards the end of the day. However, the news that the Sri Lanka team management have allegedly filed an official complaint to Clive Lloyd, the match referee, after Nasser Hussain called Muttiah Muralitharan a cheat and a chucker won't have done their camp any favours.
Quick wickets were the order of the day for England when play started, and their prospects were looking up when Andrew Flintoff broke through with his 12th ball of the morning. Bowling with great pace and hostility, Flintoff surprised Hashan Tillakaratne with his extra bounce, and Mark Butcher took a well-judged catch just inside the fine-leg boundary. Sri Lanka had added just one run to their overnight score at this stage, and with James Kirtley zipping the ball every which way, England had hopes of a quick finish to the innings.
But they had reckoned without Dinusha Fernando and Kumar Dharmasena, who added 76 for the ninth wicket. Fernando batted with great style and composure, playing a succession of sweetly timed drives and pulls. Dharmasena, meanwhile, provided important ballast to the innings, playing more carefully in his watchful knock. Ashley Giles had three good shouts for lbw turned down as the umpiring continued to raise eyebrows, but the real issue was England's inability to blow away Sri Lanka's tail - yet again. Their four bowlers did well on the first day, but Vaughan's lack of options were starting to tell.
Giles finally broke the frustrating partnership soon after lunch with the scalp of Dharmasena, who was trapped in front heaving across the line (354 for 9). But England's agony didn't end there. Murali provided his usual end-of-innings entertainment, twice swatting Kirtley through midwicket for four, and Fernando then signalled brought up his half-century with a confident swing of the bat over extra cover.
Murali flicked Giles for a straight six, and it seemed that even the umpires wanted him to continue his torment of the England attack. He gave himself room to cut Giles, and although the ball clipped the top of off stump, Aleem Dar initially gave him not out, presumably thinking that Chris Read had knocked off the bail with his glove. However, after a slight delay and some badgering by Vaughan, the umpires consulted the third umpire, who correctly gave Murali out.
Vaughan and Trescothick rushed to the pavilion to put the pads eager to make up for lost time, and they made a blistering start. While Chaminda Vaas was his usual steady self, Fernando was all over the shop. Perhaps he was feeling the effects of his batting heroics, but he produced a mixture of no-balls and long-hops. He overstepped three times in one over, and was also smashed to the rope three times by Trescothick.
Vaughan stroked a brace of elegant drives past extra cover as the run rate raced to over five an over, and the fifty partnership was posted off only 55 balls. Vaughan cracked two successive short ones from Vaas to the square-leg boundary, and even clubbed Murali past midwicket for his sixth four. But you can't keep Murali down, and in the final over before tea he dented England's progress. Trescothick propped forward and got an inside edge which flew via the pad to Tillakaratne Dilshan at short leg (89 for 1).
That dismissal then started a slide of four wickets for 30 runs to put England firmly on the back foot. Butcher got off the mark with a cracking four past long-on - but that was as good as it got. He came down the track to Dharmasena, was beaten by the turn and easily stumped by Sangakkara (100 for 2).
Vaughan notched up his half-century with a crunching sweep, but Murali got his revenge in the next over. He sent down a peach of a doosra which caught Vaughan's outside edge and was well taken by Mahela Jayawardene at first slip via Sangakkara's glove (119 for 3).
James Kirtley shows his frustration as Dinusha Fernando refuses to wilt
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Hussain usually thrives in these backs-to-the-wall situations, but he wasn't up to the task today. Instead, he was more interested in mouthing off Murali. Like Butcher, Hussain opened his innings with a four, but he was then trapped lbw for no further score. Vaas pitched one on a good length which straightened a fraction and caught him in front of off stump (119 for 4).
England were on the brink of disaster, and in danger of throwing away all of yesterday's hard work, but Thorpe and Collingwood - the master nudger and his apprentice - prevented a landslide with a steady 44-run stand. As usual, there were no frills, just ones and twos and the odd boundary. It was just what England needed to calm the nerves.
The clouds slowly rolled over the ground and seeped a steady stream of drizzle, but it wasn't hard enough to let England leave early and regroup. Collingwood and Thorpe certainly saved a tricky situation, but there is still plenty for them to do tomorrow.