March 9, 2001

Last-wicket pair guide England to useful lead


Robert Croft and Darren Gough produced an excellent last-wicket partnership of 41 to extend England's first innings lead over Sri Lanka to 90 in the Second Test at Kandy.

Earlier in the day Alec Stewart and Craig White had continued their partnership to take England past Sri Lanka's total of 297 - though not without more umpiring controversy.

Sri Lanka unsurprisingly opted to start the morning with Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya. The captain did not bowl well, bowling two full tosses in his first two overs, one of which was hit through the leg side for four by Stewart, who also drove Muralitharan through extra cover.

White too played confidently, square cutting Jayasuriya for four and lofting Dharmasena, who replaced Jayasuriya after a three-over burst, over the top for a one-bounce four.

Both batsmen enjoyed some fortune off Muralitharan. In the fifth over of the day White received the benefit of the doubt for a close lbw appeal when on 11 and Stewart looked to have been caught at silly point when on 31.

The Sri Lankans were forced to take the new ball. Unfortunately for them, Nuwan Zoysa, perhaps rusty after so few overs yesterday, was wayward and was square driven to the point boundary in his first over. Chaminda Vaas too struggled with his line.

The first wicket fell with the re-introduction of spin to the attack. Muralitharan nearly captured White when Kumar Sangakkara dropped a straightforward chance behind the stumps. But White was then tempted down the wicket by Jayasuriya and Sangakkara stumped the Yorkshireman for 39. With Stewart, he had put on 87 for the sixth wicket.

After lunch Sri Lanka started to pick up wickets. The first to fall was Stewart for 54. He was caught by Tillakaratne Dilshan at silly point off the bowling of Jayasuriya. Television replays showed him to have been unlucky as Dilshan seemed to grass the ball, though given his earlier escape it is unlikely that he would have had any complaints.

Muralitharan then bowled both Ashley Giles and Andrew Caddick as they tried to sweep the master off spinner. Giles scored five runs and Caddick seven to leave England on 346 for nine.

But then Croft and Gough came together and a combination of sensible batting, good running and several splendid shots, particularly from Croft, took England to 387 before Vaas trapped Gough lbw for ten just before tea. Croft was left unbeaten on 33 and England had a useful lead of 90.