England amble to six-wicket victory
Muralitharan's ripping doosras and extravagant turn, plus the hints of variable bounce from Lasith Malinga, showed what could have been possible if Sri Lanka had managed to extend their lead to 150. However, England's attack was on the money and maintained a consistent line and length during the early passage of play, with Matthew Hoggard finding plenty of swing with the new ball. Vandort and Farveez Maharoof held firm until the just before noon when, after a short spell from Hoggard, Flintoff brought himself on and bounced out Maharoof to lift England's spirits.
Vandort had become becalmed in the nineties - although his innings was never a flyer - but, after a couple of powerful drives had been fielded by mid-off, managed to squeeze a single through the covers to reach his ton off 297 balls. However, that was the high point for Sri Lanka as Plunkett showed he'd recovered from the shoulder injury that prevented him bowling yesterday.
Chaminda Vaas has been a thorn in England's side each time he's batted, but Plunkett made short work of him this time around when a flashing drive was well held in the gully. Nuwan Kulasekara didn't hold anyone up for very long, with Plunkett switching into bouncer mode and the ball, this time, looped to Paul Collingwood in the gully as Durham combined for the second time in two balls. England's catching was sharp and, once the first wicket had been taken, the intensity increased and it was too much for Sri Lanka.
Chasing a small total is rarely as easy as it appears and Marcus Trescothick was an early victim when Muralitharan produced a perfect doosra in his first over. Cook and Andrew Strauss played confidently, but Muralitharan was always a threat and was rewarded with a second wicket when Aleem Dar adjudged that Strauss had got a bottom edge on a sweep; replays suggested otherwise.
In a match where he has had such an impact, Kevin Pietersen tried to stamp his mark on the closing stages and unlocked his full repertoire of shots. He was brilliantly caught at short midwicket by Mahela Jayawardene but Vaas had overstepped, while the battle with Muralitharan was again absorbing. This time it went the way of the Sri Lankan when Pietersen was bamboozled by another pinpoint accurate doosra. Pietersen hardly bothered waiting for the umpire's decision and Muralitharan's celebration was the most flamboyant of the day.
A richly deserved ten-wicket haul, the 15th of his career, followed when he removed Paul Collingwood, but there were too few runs to play with. In a fitting finish, Flintoff straight-drove Muralitharan for the winning runs and two great friends shook hands. It was almost one man against a team. The battle will resume in five days at Trent Bridge.
Marcus Trescothick lbw b Muralitharan 0 (9 for 1)
Perfect doosra, hitting middle
Andrew Strauss c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 16 (35 for 2)
Ball missed bat from attempted sweep, taken at slip
Kevin Pietersen lbw b Muralitharan 13 (63 for 3)
Plumb to the doosra
Paul Collingwood c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 3 (73 for 4)
Delivery bounced and took outside edge
Farveez Maharoof c and b Flintoff 13 (219 for 6)
Short ball spliced back to the bowler
Chaminda Vaas c Collingwood b Plunkett 1 (223 for 7)
Flashing drive to gully
Nuwan Kulasekara c Collingwood b Plunkett 0 (223 for 8)
Dug in, fended into the gully area
Lasith Malinga c Strauss b Flintoff 2 (230 for 9)
Regulation edge to second slip
Michael Vandort c Jones b Plunkett 105 (231 all out)
Outside edge off back foot
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo