England out to exploit frustrated SL

England go into the third and deciding Test in buoyant mood despite having been dominated by their Sri Lankan opponents in the first two matches.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2003 14:54 IST

England go into the third and deciding Test in buoyant mood despite having been dominated by their Sri Lankan opponents in the first two matches.

The home team, meanwhile, know they will have to control their sense of frustration and injustice after failing to turn that superiority into a victory during a tense and ill-tempered series.

The teams' moods have been reflected in the words of their coaches.

"Having drawn two now, the pressure they must be under for not winning one of those games makes us feel pretty confident. We definitely feel we have momentum," England's Duncan Fletcher told reporters on Tuesday.

"If you listened to the guys talking on the bus on the way down you sensed they feel this is our series, they have a determined manner and are quite bullish about the whole thing."

A combative England side were one wicket away from defeat in the first Test in Galle but clung on as one lbw decision after another went in their favour.

In Kandy they batted out 140 overs, losing seven wickets, to draw again despite the close attentions of spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and a tight net of brilliant and excitable close fielders.

Michael Vaughan's side have also gained in confidence, knowing they have survived despite the considerable disadvantage of losing both tosses on pitches designed for the home spinners.

Vaughan, who led from the front with a painstaking seven-hour century in the second Test, reiterated his belief that Sri Lanka are susceptible to pressure.

"We could not put enough pressure on them (in Kandy) because we let them score too many runs, but if we can hang in there until day four or five we know they are a team that can fold," Vaughan told reporters.

Sri Lanka coach John Dyson, who has been irritated by England's claims of being in the ascendancy, said he was surprised at the tourists' refusal to chase their 368-run target in Kandy after what he described as "a very brave declaration".

"We have been on top of those games and we have been frustrated at times but these games test your patience and test your levels of coping with frustrations," Dyson said.

"The boys will have to maintain their concentration, their focus and their patience."

Sri Lanka skipper Hashan Tillakaratne, still looking for his first win as captain after seven Tests, refused to be downbeat.

"It was disappointing not to win the last Test but... we are playing well as a team at the moment."

With conditions in Colombo expected to favour swing, fast bowler James Anderson has a chance of returning to the English side having recovered from an ankle injury.

Sri Lanka seamer Dilhara Fernando and leg spinner Upul Chandana are in contention for a recall.

England (from): Michael Vaughan (capt), Marcus Trescothick, Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe, Andrew Flintoff, Nasser Hussain, Rikki Clarke, Ashley Giles, Robert Croft, Gareth Batty, James Kirtley, Richard Johnson, Matthew Hoggard, Chris Read, Geraint Jones, Paul Collingwood, James Anderson.

Sri Lanka (from): Hashan Tillakaratne (capt), Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Kumar Dharmasena, Upul Chandana, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dilhara Fernando, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Michael Vandort.

First Published: Dec 16, 2003 14:51 IST