March 10, 2001

Sangakkara and Dharmasena lead Sri Lankan fightback


The Second Test between Sri Lanka and England is on a knife edge after the fourth day's play at Kandy. Following a magnificent Sri Lankan fightback, England require 70 more runs for victory with six wickets remaining.

After Sri Lanka's tail had added vital runs in the first two sessions of the day to leave England chasing 161 for victory, the tourists were 91 for four at the close.

Chaminda Vaas accounted for the top three England batsmen. Michael Atherton (11) and Nasser Hussain (15) - struggling with a groin injury - were both caught behind by Kumar Sangakkara while Marcus Trescothick (13) was adjudged lbw.

But it was that man Muttiah Muralitharan who removed England's most dangerous looking batsman, Graham Thorpe. He had progressed serenely to 46 when Muralitharan found the edge to give Sangakkara another catch. Robert Croft came in as nightwatchman and, together with Alec Stewart, saw England safely to the close.

Sangakkara was the hero of the day with the bat for Sri Lanka. Having stood at one end yesterday and watch wickets collapse around him, he emerged today to turn the tables on England.

He reached his fourth Test half-century in a promising career in the first over of the morning, his fifty coming with a crisp square cut off Ashley Giles in the first over of the morning. It came off 94 balls.

He batted beautifully, caressing the ball through the offside like David Gower in his pomp. He was, howver, tested by Darren Gough, who bowled another aggressive spell in the morning and beat the bat on a number of occasions.

Sangakkara was given worthy support by Kumar Dharmasena. His off spin has proved pretty ineffective so far in the series, but he was picked in the side partly because of his batting.

But moments before the lunch interval Sangakkara was dismissed, five runs short of his maiden Test Match century, to leave Sri Lanka on 187 for seven. His 95 came from 184 balls in four hours of glorious strokeplay. He hit 13 wristy boundaries in his brilliant innings, but he was clearly distraught to have given his wicket away, just when Sri Lanka were regaining the initiative.

Croft was the wicket taker, his third of the innings, as he lured Sangakkara down the pitch. Trying to hoist the off spinner over long off, he was smartly stumped by Stewart.

During the afternoon session England gradually chipped away at the Sri Lankans, with the second new ball proving vital.

Dharmasena was the next wicket to fall but not before he had reached his half-century. He had survived an appeal earlier in the day while on 19 when Thorpe appeared to take a pad/bat catch at silly point but went on to make 54 before Graeme Hick caught him brilliantly in the slips off Gough. Sri Lanka were then 234/8.

Zoysa soon went for a duck, the Gough-Hick combination doing the trick again. Muralitharan came to the wicket and promptly launched Gough over mid-wicket for six.

But the introduction of Craig White to the attack brought immediate rewards. With his first delivery he captured the wicket of Vaas, caught by Croft, for a vital 36. Gough was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 4/50 off 22 overs.