England beat Lanka by six wickets

A career-best performance from Plunkett gave his team an easily attainable victory target on day four of the second Test at Edgbaston.

india Updated: May 29, 2006 03:22 IST

England beat Sri Lanka by six wickets on Sunday after a career-best performance from paceman Liam Plunkett gave his team an easily attainable victory target on day four of the second Test at Edgbaston.

Plunkett claimed 3-2 in eight balls to help bowl Sri Lanka out for 231 in its second innings, setting England a target of 78 and ending the tourists' hopes of staging a similar rearguard action that allowed them to draw the first Test at Lord's.

"It was a good win," England captain Andrew Flintoff said. "We stuck to our task, the bowlers bowled well, and Liam Plunkett coming on, he's only played a handful of games, and we got better and better."

England, led by man-of-the-match Kevin Pietersen's 142 off 157 balls, reached 295 in reply to Sri Lanka's first-innings 141. At stumps, the home side was 81-4 in its second innings, with Flintoff bringing up the winning runs with a four off Muttiah Muralitharan to be not out 4, and Alastair Cook unbeaten with 34.

Muralitharan claimed 10 wickets in the match. Flintoff said Pietersen's innings, which included a reverse sweep off Muralitharan for six on Friday, made the difference. "I was sat there sometimes with my mouth wide open thinking, 'how has he done that?"' Flintoff said.

"Some of the shots he plays, he's got a technique of his own, he's got a method in which he trusts, and I've not seen anything like it.

"He's probably one of the most talented players I've ever played with."

Sri Lanka opener Michael Vandort scored a century after resuming on 89 with his side 194-5 and Farveez Maharoof yet to score. Vandort reached a patient 105 off 303 balls -- his second test century -- before he became the tourists' last man out when Plunkett had him caught by wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.

Plunkett, who took 3-43 in the first innings, was kept out of the bowling attack on the rain-interrupted third day because of a sore shoulder he picked up while fielding the previous evening.

He showed no sign of pain on Sunday when he dismissed Chaminda Vaas, who was caught by Paul Collingwood at gully for 1. Plunkett was on a hat trick when he had Nuwan Kulasekara out in exactly the same fashion for no score on the next ball, but Lasith Malinga fended off the following delivery.

Malinga didn't last long, however. He was caught by Andrew Strauss at second slip off the bowling of Flintoff for 2.

Three balls later, Plunkett dismissed Vandort to wrap up the innings and finish with figures of 3-17 off 13.2 overs. Coming into his fourth test, Plunkett's previous best had been 2-125.

Flintoff, who had started Sri Lanka's downfall in the 15th over of the day when he caught Maharoof off his own bowling for 13, took 2-50 off 19 overs. Matthew Hoggard had 3-64 off 22 and Monty Panesar 2-73 off 28.

Sri Lanka off-spinner Muralitharan, who took 6-86 in England's first innings, looked determined to make the chase tough for the visitors when he trapped Marcus Trescothick leg-before-wicket for a duck with his fourth ball to put England at 9-1.

Muralitharan struck again when Strauss (16) attempted a sweep and was caught at first slip by captain Mahela Jayawardene. Strauss' dismissal brought Pietersen to the crease and he survived a chance when Jayawardene took a spectacular catch at mid-wicket off a Chaminda Vaas no-ball.

Muralitharan took care of Pietersen's dismissal, however, when he trapped the batsman lbw for 13.

When Muralitharan had Collingwood caught behind by Kumar Sangakkara for 3 he claimed his 10th wicket for the match, the 15th time he has achieved the feat in tests. Muralitharan finished the innings with 4-29, giving him 10-115 for the match.

Jayawardene was left lamenting the inability of his team -- which also fell cheaply in the first innings at Lord's -- to make a good start for the second Test in a row.

"Both games we did not bat in the first innings, that was the biggest mistake," Jayawardene said. "If we can solve that problem, I think we can definitely challenge the English."

The third Test starts on Friday at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. In more good news for England, regular captain Michael Vaughan was named in Yorkshire's squad for Monday's C&G Trophy game against Scotland after a lengthy absence with a knee injury.

First Published: May 28, 2006 23:41 IST