Bowlers earn Sri Lanka advantage
Sri Lanka's control throughout the first two sessions was highlighted by England's scoring rate when 62 overs brought 138 runs. Collingwood faced 127 balls before hitting his first boundary - a sweet lofted six off Muralitharan - while even the free-scoring Kevin Pietersen had been slowed from his usual gallop as Sri Lanka executed their plans to perfection. They were smartly led by Mahela Jayawardene, who set some superbly innovative fields, while he had the support of his bowlers who performed as a unit and kept England on a tight leash. And for the first time in the series key battles were won when they mattered.
The full house in Nottingham had thronged through the gates to watch one of those battles: Muralitharan verses Pietersen. First, though, Lasith Malinga set the perfect tone for Sri Lanka with a fired-up spell and removed Alastair Cook with the assistance of an inside edge and a lack of footwork.
The main event, however, began when Muralitharan took the ball and Pietersen made his intentions clear striding down the pitch and firing him straight for a boundary. By comparison with other Pietersen innings, he'd really had to knuckle down here but threatened to break free when he planted one deep into the stands. Muralitharan, though, wasn't about to back down and tossed another up - but slightly closer to leg stump - and Pietersen's sweep took the top edge. Jayawardene held in his excitement long enough to pouch the catch; the shrieks of delight then drowned out the groans from the crowd.
Nabbing Pietersen for less than three figures sent the Sri Lankans jumping and they'd hardly had time to settle down when another huge incision was cut as Flintoff went in the next over. He had inside-edged just wide of short-leg to get off the mark before leaning back to a try and force Jayasuriya through the offside. However, he only managed to send a fast edge towards Jayawardene at slip, who made the catch look far easier than it was.
Collingwood, though, is a batsman from a slightly different mould and, as he showed in India during the winter, can absorb long periods of slow scoring. His lofted six off Muralitharan was the only boundary of the afternoon session, but with an inexperienced and largely defensive lower order he couldn't afford to throw his wicket away. He also stood up to a short-pitched barrage from Malinga who struck him a painful blow in the ribs.
Liam Plunkett - dropped on six at short-leg by Tillakaratne Dilshan - showed a correct technique and managed to withstand the variety of Muralitharan and swing of Vaas in a vital stand of 33. Jayawardene opted for the new ball straight after tea, and Vaas bowled a superb over to Collingwood. He had two close leg-befores turned down before the third was upheld by Darrell Hair and Collingwood's 184-ball stay was ended. However, just as England encountered frustrating lower-order resistance yesterday, Sri Lanka were faced with Jon Lewis swinging the bat and Hoggard nudging singles.
The pair added 33 priceless runs before Hoggard was removed slightly unluckily when the ball brushed his arm, not the bat, although the Sri Lankans feel they haven't had the rub of the green this series and will happily take the decision. Lewis couldn't quite club England a lead, but when Hoggard removed Michael Vandort in his first over everything was level-pegging again.
Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara confidently moved through the final overs of the day and ticked the advantage towards fifty. If one of the senior batsmen can take command tomorrow, Muralitharan will be relishing the prospect of bowling last with a total to defend. Sri Lanka's hopes of sharing the series are very much alive.
Michael Vandort b Hoggard 5 (6 for 1)
Inside edge to an inswinger, through the gate
Alastair Cook b Malinga 24 (73 for 3)
Flat-footed inside-edge onto leg stump
Kevin Pietersen c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 41 (117 for 4)
Top-edge sweep to short fine-leg
Andrew Flintoff c Jayawardenne b Muralitharan 1 (118 for 5)
Forcing edge off back foot, sharp take at slip
Geraint Jones st Sangakkara b Muralitharan 19 (151 for 6)
Came down, almost yorked himself, well short
Liam Plunkett b Jayasuriya 9 (184 for 7)
Ball turned, beat the edge and hit offstump
Matthew Hoggard c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 10 (229 for 9)
Given out caught slip, but ball brushed sleeve
Jon Lewis c Dilshan b Malinga 20 (229 all out)
Slogged hight to deep cover
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo