Third Test

England v Sri Lanka

Lawrence Booth

At Manchester, June 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. England won by ten wickets. Toss: England.

A Test that had crept along in the shadow of football's World Cup sprang dramatically into life in the equivalent of extra time. As darkness began to fall on the final evening, Giles winkled out Sri Lanka's last two wickets in two balls to leave England a target of 50 in six overs, a penalty shoot-out of a different kind. Vaughan and Trescothick kept their nerve to launch a blistering assault and seal a 2-0 series win with an over to spare. Cricket wasn't quite coming home, but the feeling of optimism that had evaporated the previous summer filled the air once more.

England's victory was a triumph of patience and timing. For an unprecedented third innings in a row they racked up 500. Then, on a pitch that was more pancake than pudding, and without the experience of Caddick, who pulled up in his sixth over, they gritted their teeth, bent their backs, and went for the jugular. Flintoff was the sledgehammer, driving the batsmen on to the back foot; Hoggard the scalpel, swinging the ball both ways with subtlety and incision. But it was Tudor, man of the match for his sustained hostility and seven wickets, who provided the class. And when the quicks slowed, Giles stepped in.

Sri Lanka had been losing momentum ever since the middle of the First Test, and here, with the exception of Arnold and Muralitharan, they were a shambles. Jayasuriya's captaincy was unimaginative, while his failure to stem the singles during England's run-sprint was simply negligent. With the ship rudderless, the crew floundered. Upashantha and Dilhara Fernando, who came in for the injured Zoysa and Buddhika Fernando, had games to forget. Upashantha gifted England's openers a dream start after Hussain had won the toss, then handed Trescothick a life after lunch by dropping a sitter at square leg. Fernando leaked almost a run a ball. Worse, only Arnold, on a batsman's pitch, passed 40.

There was unrest off the field too. The news that Chandra Schaffter, the Sri Lankan manager, would not have his contract renewed at the end of the tour came as no surprise. But the resignation of their Australian bowling coach, Daryl Foster, after an argument with the Sri Lankan board about the plane fare to Perth to visit a sick grandchild, certainly did.

England's confidence after Edgbaston was reflected by an unchanged side and another remorseless display with the bat. The fifty came up in the tenth over and, after Vaughan fell to Fernando's slower ball, Trescothick motored on, crashing ten fours in his half-century. The in-form Butcher helped add 126 for the second wicket before Trescothick edged to slip, the first time he had fallen to Murali in 350 balls in Tests.

Rain lopped 18 overs off the first day and allowed just 28 on the second, but it didn't stop Steve Bucknor leading the players on to the field twice when drizzle was falling, in his 67th Test - a world record, surpassing Dickie Bird. Nor did it stop Butcher, who timed the ball exquisitely off his pads, moving to his fifth Test century, and his third in five Tests in England. He had barely played a false stroke when Vaas trapped him leg-before. Flintoff was freakishly run out by a deflection on to the stumps at the bowler's end, but now Stewart, dropped in the gully on nought, took over. He was equalling Graham Gooch's England record of 118 Test caps, but had gone into the match with his career in the balance. He came out fighting, which was typical, showed authority against Muralitharan, which was not, and began the third day on 57. Stewart first lost Tudor, who flashed to second slip to give Vaas his 200th Test wicket, and then about 5,000 spectators, who drifted off behind the Stretford End to watch England's footballers take on Denmark on a giant screen provided by the ECB at a cost of £10,000. A keen football fan himself, Stewart celebrated England's first goal with a glorious drive through extra cover off Muralitharan, and brought up his 15th Test century in style with four consecutive fours off Fernando - two pulls, a cover drive and a punch down the ground. It had taken him just 146 balls and soon after he moved past Colin Cowdrey into fifth place on England's list of leading Test run-scorers. He and Giles helped top 500 once more by adding 102 for the eighth wicket.

Sri Lanka's reply got off to a frenetic start: Caddick limped off with a side strain, only for Flintoff to take Atapattu out of the equation too with a stinging blow to his right hand. But Arnold, opening in place of the still out-of-sorts Jayasuriya, counter-attacked skilfully, and Sri Lanka ended the third evening on 130 for one. They reached 219 for four next day, but accurate bowling, clever captaincy, slapdash strokeplay and the second new ball combined to see off the remaining five wickets - Atapattu was absent injured - for just 34.

Sri Lanka followed on for the first time against England, 259 behind, but luck seemed to be going their way on the final day when, two overs before lunch, Jayawardene flicked Flintoff to Hoggard at deep backward square, only for umpire Orchard, who had just moved from square leg to point, to signal no-ball. Orchard had spotted that Hoggard had accidentally become the third fielder behind square on the leg side - along with Vaughan at leg slip and Simon Jones, on as substitute, at fine leg. England were downcast. Jayawardene added just ten more runs, but with Arnold reaching a patient five-and-a-half-hour century to take Sri Lanka to 253 for four at tea, the game was heading for a draw.

Again, the second new ball proved crucial. Arnold drove expansively at Tudor, Vaas was beaten by Hoggard's nip-backer, and Upashantha heaved at Flintoff. Fernando held out for 44 minutes; then a heavily bandaged Atapattu emerged to keep Tillekeratne company until, with time running out, he played back fatally to Giles, who then snaffled Muralitharan first ball.

The race was on, but Fernando's first over cost 16, and when Trescothick slog-swept Muralitharan for six, there was only one team in it. England had won only their second Test at Old Trafford since 1981. For an evening, at least, it was almost possible to forget about the football.

Man of the Match: A. J. Tudor
Men of the Series: England - M. A. Butcher; Sri Lanka- D. P. M. D. Jayawardene

© John Wisden & Co