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Lanka takes narrow lead over England

Half centuries by Vandort and Dilshan gave Lanka a 40-run lead over England at stumps on a rain-interrupted third day of the second Test at Edgbaston.

india Updated: May 28, 2006 03:24 IST

Half centuries by Michael Vandort and Tillakaratne Dilshan gave Sri Lanka a 40-run lead over England at stumps Saturday on a rain-interrupted third day of the second Test at Edgbaston.

At the close, the visitors were still precariously placed at 194-5 in their second innings, with Vandort not out 89 and Farveez Maharoof yet to score.

After the inclement weather delayed the start by 5 hours, 45 minutes, only 34 overs were played. Sri Lanka resumed on 86-4, trailing by 68 runs, with Vandort not out 30 and Dilshan on 21. England coach Duncan Fletcher described the lack of playing time as frustrating, and said his team would be hard pressed to chase a target of 200 runs.

"You just have to give credit to how the Sri Lankans batted," Fletcher said. "A score around about 200 in the fourth innings of a test match is always a challenge."

Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody said a target as low as 130 to 150 would be "challenging."

"I'd be delighted with 200," Moody said. "I was thinking under 200 runs would be pretty tough.

"Chasing runs in test cricket when a wicket's deteriorating slightly is a very tough task, particularly even tougher when you've got someone like Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) to face on a wicket that is showing obvious turn."

England was bowled out for 295 in reply to the tourists' first-innings 141. Kevin Pietersen scored 142 off 157 balls to lead the home side.

Off-spinner Muralitharan limited the damage, taking 6-86 off 25 overs for the tourists, but a top-order collapse had Sri Lanka in deep trouble after Matthew Hoggard and Monty Panesar took two wickets each on Friday.

It looked like Sri Lanka would be forced to produce another rearguard action like the one that allowed it to hold on for an unlikely draw in the first test at Lord's. Vandort and Dilshan set about giving that performance.

Moody said his team believed it could still win the match, rather than just salvage a draw.

"It is frustrating because it would be nice to be in front of the game after the first innings but, on the positive side, it's great that the team are showing fight and showing character and still have that belief they're in the game, which they very much are," Moody said.

Opener Vandort, called up for the second test in place of Jehan Mubarak, hit eight fours on the way to his score, which came off 246 balls. It was his third half century from five tests. Dilshan, whose second-innings 69 formed a key part of Sri Lanka's fightback at Lord's, compiled his latest score of 59 _ his ninth test 50 _ off 113 balls, hitting eight fours.

He survived a confident appeal for leg-before-wicket off Panesar's bowling when on 58, but umpire Darrell Hair judged the batsman was not out.

Dilshan was dismissed a short time later, trapped lbw by Hoggard. Liam Plunkett, England's leading wicket-taker in Sri Lanka's first innings with 3-43, was replaced in the field by Durham's Gary Scott after injuring his right shoulder while fielding on Friday. Scans revealed no significant damage but Plunkett was being kept out of the bowling attack as a precaution.

Hoggard finished the day with 3-52 from 18 overs, while Panesar had 2-72 off 25.