Vaughan hundred leads England to safety
England 294 and 285 for 7 (Vaughan 105, Muralitharan 4-64) drew with Sri Lanka 382 and 279 for 7 dec
Michael Vaughan celebrates what he later said was his 'best hundred'
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For the second time in eight days, England showed their mettle to eke out a tense and closely fought draw in the second Test at Kandy. Michael Vaughan led the way to safety with a gritty seven-hour 105, before Chris Read and Gareth Batty batted out the final hour to leave England seven wickets down - and still all-square in the series.
Sri Lanka, though, will be wondering how they again managed to let England off the hook. They only took five wickets in the day, and will be left to reflect on the decision to take the bad light on the third evening. One man who must take some of the blame is Hashan Tillakaratne, the captain. Just like at Galle, he paid the price for being over-cautious in his field placements, his delay in declaring yesterday - and for his side's lack of urgency today.
Admittedly, though, it would have been a different story if it hadn't been for a magnificent effort from Vaughan. He gutsed it out until 40 minutes after tea and faced a monumental 333 balls in all, as he led England's stubborn resistance. Against a surprisingly defensive field set by Tillakaratne, Vaughan rolled up his sleeves and displayed immaculate determination and concentration.
A model of coolness, he was solid in defence, but also kept up the tempo with the ones and twos, as well as the odd boundary. He added an invaluable 77 with Graham Thorpe, who made a brave 41, and put on a gutsy stand of 41 with the battling Paul Collingwood.
While he was at the crease, England were in safe hands, but after Vaughan had chalked up his tenth Test hundred, Muttiah Muralitharan - as he so often does - made the big breakthrough for his side and set English hearts jumping. He fizzed down a doosra towards leg stump and Vaughan got an inside edge which was sharply taken by Tillakaratne Dilshan, diving to his right at short leg (239 for 7). It wasn't one of Vaughan's most elegant of centuries - but one of his most important.
The only slight blemish in Vaughan's innings were the delaying tactics he used by frequently walking down the pitch to chat with his partner. The Sri Lankans - and the umpires - didn't like it and the bowlers became more and more frustrated as Vaughan refused to budge.
After Vaughan was snaffled out with 15 overs still remaining, Sri Lanka were eyeing a dramatic victory. Tillakaratne took the new ball and Chaminda Vaas and Muralitharan - Sri Lanka's big two - were charging in with their tails up. However, Batty and Read - England's most inexperienced two - showed professionalism beyond their years as they used all the old tricks to waste time between each delivery. Even Matthew Hoggard, the 12th man, needlessly came out with gloves and water, but was roundly booed by the crowd, and promptly sent back by the umpires - much to his amusement.
Heated moment: Daryl Harper warns Kumar Sangakkara about excessive appealing
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As the day wore on, the appeals became more frantic, more words were exchanged, and the usually smiley Tillakaratne was beginning to look a tad concerned. And things boiled over in the afternoon when Tillakaratne charged towards umpire Aleem Dar during yet another appeal. Daryl Harper had to step in to reprimand Tillakaratne and Kumar Sangakkara for their excessive appealing, and for using foul language, which was picked up by the match referee on the stump microphone.
It all represented how much England's resistance was getting under their skin, especially after Vaas had given them a dream start - and thoughts of an early finish. With his fourth ball of the day, Vaas removed Nasser Hussain, caught behind by Sangakkara. And things could have got even worse for England in Vaas's next over, when Vaughan edged fractionally short of Mahela Jayawardene at first slip. It was a fraught beginning for England and Sri Lanka were cock-a-hoop, but Thorpe entered the fray to push quick singles to good effect, and he slowly steady things down and put England back on track to safety.
He nudged and nurdled in his own trademark style and provided good support for Vaughan. The pair batted through the majority of the morning session and kept the score ticking along. However, Thorpe was unluckily given out by Dar straight after the lunch break. He pressed forward to a Murali offbreak, and the ball flicked the pad on the way to Sangakkara. However, the umpire thought it found the edge and as the fielders appealed, he sent a dejected Thorpe on his way (167 for 4).
Collingwood slotted into the groove straight away with little fuss. He mixed defence with the odd boundary before he was caught by Jayawardene at first slip off Kumar Dharmasena. Instead of playing straight, Collingwood tried to turn a straight ball through midwicket, but only got a thick edge (208 for 5).
A nervy Flintoff then battled away for 35 balls until Murali trapped him plumb in front of middle with a quicker ball. Flintoff should have been forward to the big-turning offbreak, but chose to stay back and paid the price (233 for 6). Vaughan soon followed and that set up another tense finish which Read and Batty successfully saw out - and left Sri Lanka again cursing their failure to finish off England.