Cook and rain conjure England's escape
Sri Lanka took the series 1-0, but would have moved to second place behind Australia in the offiial rankings if they had secured a 2-0 scoreline.cricket Updated: Dec 22, 2007 17:59 IST
Opener Alastair Cook hit a defiant century before rain washed out the last session to help England draw the final cricket Test against Sri Lanka here today.
Left-handed Cook made 118 as England, needing to bat out the fifth day after following on 418 runs behind, groped to 251-6 in their second innings when a heavy downpour ruined Sri Lanka's victory hopes.
Rain interrupted play for an hour after lunch but a second wet spell in the post-tea session waterlogged the Galle International Stadium and forced the umpires to abandon the match with 35 overs remaining.
Sri Lanka took the series 1-0, having won the first Test in Kandy by 88 runs, but would have moved to second place behind Australia in the offiial rankings if they had secured a 2-0 scoreline.
Muttiah Muralitharan finished with three wickets, but the hero of the final day was young Essex opener Cook who stood rock solid at the crease for six hours and 24 minutes to deny Sri Lanka victory.
Cook showed why he is rated as one of modern cricket's most promising batsmen by scoring a seventh Test century before his 23rd birthday on Christmas Day.
Sachin Tendulkar of India and Pakistan's Javed Miandad had scored seven tons by their 23rd year, while Austalian legend Don Bradman had eight.
Cook scored England's only century during the series, with captain Michael Vaughan's 87 in the drawn second Test in Colombo being the next highest score.
Cook was, however, lucky to get that far after he was dropped down the leg-side by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene off Lasith Malinga in the day's second over when on 54.
England lost three wickets in four balls in the morning session to slip from a comfortable 200-2 to 202-5 by lunch before Matt Prior gave Cook company for two hours to add 50 for the seventh wicket.
Cook departed after tea, caught behind off debutant Chanaka Welegedara, but Prior remained unbeaten on a dour 19 before rain came to England's rescue.
The overnight pair of Cook and Ian Bell put on 61 for the second wicket when Muralitharan bowled Bell for 34 with a ball that kept low on the dual-paced wicket.
Kevin Pietersen (30) helped Cook put on 72 for the third wicket before a dramatic over from Muralitharan 15 minutes before lunch left England in tatters.
Muralitharan, Test cricket's most successful bowler, claimed his 722nd wicket when he beat Pietersen in the air and had the batsman flicking a low catch to Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene at short mid-wicket.
Two deliveries later, Paul Collingwood stepped out to play a flighted ball, missed the line and was easily stumped by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene.
Ravi Bopara was dismissed first ball when he edged Muralitharan along the ground to the slip region where Mahela Jayawardene pounced on the ball and threw it back to the wicketkeeper to break the stumps.
Television replays showed that Bopara, who had taken a step forward hoping the ball had gone past Jayawardene, failed to regain the crease in time.