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Sri Lanka's great escape!

Tailenders Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekara put on a record 9th-wicket stand to ensure Lanka drew their series opener against England at Lord's.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 14:00 IST

Tailenders Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekara ensured Sri Lanka achieved one of the great escapes in Test history as the tourists drew their series opener against England on the final day at Lord's on Monday.

Their Sri Lankan record ninth-wicket stand of 105 compounded the effect of a shoddy England fielding display which saw the hosts drop nine catches in all during the match, the first of a three-Test series.

Vaas finished on 50 not out after Kulasekara, in only his third match at this level, had made a Test-best 64.

Sri Lanka, following-on in reply to England's first innings 551 for six declared, closed on 537 for nine - 178 ahead - after 14 hours of resistance in an innings lasting 199 overs.

"If we held our catches we'd have won the game," said England captain Andrew Flintoff. "But they (Sri Lanka) kept going and batting and batting and kept us in the field for three-and-a-half days."

Sri Lanka's score was the highest total in the second innings of a Lord's Test, beating the 529 for five declared England made against them in 2002.

They had been just 62 runs ahead when pacemen Vaas and Kulasekara came together in overcast, swing-friendly conditions.

But the fact that Sri Lanka were eventually in a position to avoid defeat owed much to a century Sunday from their captain and Mahela Jayawardene, after he top-scored with 61 in his team's meagre first innings 192.

"It was a disappointing first innings performance, and we knew we had to show some character, which we did. We're pretty happy with the effort," said Jayawardene, the man-of-the-match.

He was also a beneficiary of England's fallible slip fielding, dropped for 58 - 61 runs short of his eventual 119 - by Andrew Strauss.

At tea, Sri Lanka were 510 for eight, Vaas 34 not out and the 23-year-old Kulasekara 55 not out.

Flintoff, captaining England with Michael Vaughan injured, ignored concerns about his long-term health, the all-rounder bowling 50 overs in a Test innings for the first time.

But it was fellow quick Hoggard who finally broke a stand spanning 46 overs when he had Kulasekara, hooking, caught by Kevin Pietersen on the mid-wicket boundary.

Kulasekara faced 133 balls in over three hours, with two sixes and seven fours.