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Eng bounce back after Murali's magic

Gareth Batty and Ashley Giles shared four big wickets to lead England's fightback against a Muttiah Muralitharan-inspired Sri Lanka on Thursday.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2003 19:10 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Spinners Gareth Batty and Ashley Giles shared four big wickets to lead England's fightback against a Muttiah Muralitharan-inspired Sri Lanka in the opening cricket Test here on Thursday.

Muralitharan grabbed seven wickets in a brilliant display of spin bowling as England were bowled out for 235 in reply to Sri Lanka's first-innings total of 331 on an absorbing third day when as many as 13 wickets tumbled.

Sri Lanka also failed to cope with spin on a turning track, reaching 99-5 in their second innings at stumps for an overall lead of 195.

Jayawardene was batting on 14 with Chaminda Vaas (six).

Off-spinner Batty (2-28), playing only his second Test, led the England revival when he removed well-set opener Marvan Atapattu (35) and skipper Hashan Tillakaratne (one) in three overs.

Atapattu became Batty's first victim when he stepped out to drive, but missed the line and was stumped. Tillakaratne was adjudged leg-before offering no stroke.

Left-arm spinner Giles (2-24) also kept pressure from the other end, having Sanath Jayasuriya (17) and Thilan Samaraweera (one) caught by lone-slip Marcus Trescothick.

The England duo's successes nearly cancelled out Sri Lanka's advantage given by off-spin magician Muralitharan, who finished with 7-46 off 31.4 tight overs for his 39th haul of five or more wickets in an innings in 83 Tests.

Muralitharan looked virtually unplayable as he teased and tormented the England batsmen with his clever variations.

Even Mark Butcher, who top-scored with 51, was dropped twice off Muralitharan during his long stay at the crease -- first by the bowler himself and then by wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara.

England were comfortably placed at 142-2 before faltering against the Sri Lanka spinner.

Muralitharan, 31, sparked the collapse after left-arm paceman Vaas had broken the 75-run stand for the third wicket between left-handers Butcher and Graham Thorpe (43).

The Sri Lankan, who took two wickets on Wednesday, got rid of debutant Paul Collingwood (one), Andrew Flintoff (one) and Chris Read (nought) in his morning's second spell.

He then returned in the afternoon session to dismiss Giles (18) and Richard Johnson (26), both caught in the deep.

But it was Vaas who provided the breakthrough when he trapped Thorpe leg-before with an angling delivery after the tourists had resumed at 97-2.

Thorpe and Butcher faced anxious moments in the opening hour when spinners Muralitharan and Jayasuriya were bowling.

Thorpe was lucky not to be given out when on 29 as TV replays showed slip fielder Samaraweera held an edge off Jayasuriya.

Muralitharan's superb effort, however, was nearly undone by his team-mates with indifferent batting in the closing stages.

First Published: Dec 04, 2003 12:54 IST