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December 5, 2007
Innings of the day
For the second time in the match, Ian Bell looked a million dollars for as long as he was in the middle. But, once again, he let his poise slip at the critical juncture of the innings. While he and Matt Prior were in harness, adding 109 for the seventh wicket, England's survival seemed assured. But then he fell with his century in sight, beaten - much like Paul Collingwood in the first innings - by Murali's devious new-ball weapon, the non-spinning offbreak.
Ball of the day
It didn't take a wicket, but if any delivery was designed to put the heebie-jeebies into England's batsmen, it was the one that Lasith Malinga sent down to James Anderson in the very first over of the morning. Outside off stump, it exploded through the top of the pitch, took off like a jump jet, and fizzed past Anderson's flinching defences and all the way for four byes. Malinga's grin brought to mind the look on Curtly Ambrose's face after a similarly trampoline-like delivery at Edgbaston in 1995. And for the rest of the season, England batted as if they were on a minefield.
Bowler of the day
Chaminda Vaas has been a largely peripheral figure in his 100th Test match. The combined efforts and announcements of Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayasuriya have squeezed his milestone to the margins for the last four days. But in the opening salvoes of England's second innings, he was unstoppable. Three cheap wickets, including both openers and the nightwatchman, James Anderson, paved the way for the main man to work his magic. Extraordinarily, Murali was then made to wait until his 32nd over for a breakthrough. Though he made amends quickly enough.
Distraction of the day
England did their damnedest to string out the final overs, with glove-changes, runners and medical attention all eating up precious minutes, not to mention some of the slowest coming-and-goings from the wicket since Inzamam-ul-Haq made his last lugubrious trudge to the pavilion. One break in play wasn't quite so opportune, however. Soon after the new ball had been taken, onto the pitch trotted a dog, who promptly decided to curl up and go to sleep at long-on, before Mahela Jayawardene chased it off the park to resounding boos. The wasted minutes were no compensation for what happened next, however. Back came Murali, and out went Bell.
Howler of the day
Asad Rauf's lbw decision against Ryan Sidebottom in the closing overs of the game. Unfortunately it was a shocker, cannoning off a big inside-edge before rapping the pads in front of middle-and-off. In truth it probably would not have made too much difference to England - the breach in their batting had been made and Murali by this stage was swarming like the bees that held up play on day four. But Sidebottom had shown in his first-innings stickability an appetite for the fight that few had credited him with. Another 20 minutes with him in the middle could conceivably have made a difference. But then again, Sri Lanka need only mention Sangakkara's saw-off in Hobart last month. What comes around goes around in cricket.
Incident of the day
English wickets weren't the only things that went tumbling in the first hour of play. Midway through the 15th over of the innings, Kevin Pietersen had to pull away from his stance after an almighty clatter in the stands behind him. A gust of wind had ripped three panels of corrugated iron off the roof of the special enclosure at the Hunnasgiriya End of the ground, injuring four supporters and causing a hasty evacuation. It was a literal case of the sheets hitting the fans.
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