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Murali stymies England with the bat

The offie, a thorn in England's side with 13 wickets this series, put on 62 for the last wicket with Vaas to take Sri Lanka to 231 all out.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 03:20 IST

Muttiah Muralitharan frustrated England with the bat, not the ball, as the home side were left on the backfoot come stumps on the first day of the third and final Test against Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge on Friday.

Off-spinner Murali, a thorn in England's side with 13 wickets this series, put on 62 for the last wicket with Chaminda Vaas to take Sri Lanka to 231 all out after they had suffered yet another first innings collapse on the way to 169 for nine.

At stumps England were 53 for two, a deficit of 178 runs, as they looked to build on their 1-0 series lead.

Alastair Cook was 12 not out and Kevin Pietersen, who made 142 in England's six-wicket second Test win at Edbgaston, unbeaten on six.

Murali, in what could be his final Test on English soil, played some outrageous strokes, including a falling-over hook for four off England captain Andrew Flintoff, and a pick-up six off debutant pace bowler Jon Lewis, on his way to a 29-ball 33.

Left-hander Vaas, who struck a superb textbook cover-driven boundary off Matthew Hoggard, finished on 38 not out with five fours after Murali gave former Lancashire team-mate Flintoff a simple catch off Liam Plunkett.

Strike bowler Vaas then produced a superb delivery to hit Andrew Strauss's off-stump and leave England 25 for one.

And they lost their other opener when Marcus Trescothick, going for a risky second, was run out for 24 by Lasith Malinga's throw to wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara, although third umpire Peter Hartley had to confirm the dismissal.

"When we put ourselves in these situations time and time again it can only be our own fault," Sangakkara told reporters as he reflected on Sri Lanka's latest first innings collapse.

"I think it was a great effort by Vaas and Muralitharan, they really showed a lot of fight but we batsmen should be doing all the hard work."

Earlier Flintoff, still deputising as captain for Michael Vaughan, led the attack with three for 52 but he bowled nine no-balls.

Lewis, England's 634th Test cricketer, took an encouraging three for 68 including a wicket with his third legitimate delivery.

"If you perform well in county cricket you deserve to get a chance in the England side," said Lewis.

"I don't think I ever thought I wasn't going to play," added the seamer before paying tribute to Flintoff's leadership.

"He's a pretty charismatic guy - when he charges in for you, everyone else goes up a level as well."

The final Sri Lanka pair's stand was in marked contrast to a top-order performance that saw them lose three wickets for two runs in 16 balls to be in trouble at 86 for four at lunch after captain Mahela Jayawardene, caught behind off Flintoff for nought, had won the toss and batted.

Sanath Jayasuriya, who had not previously played on this tour, had been recalled after being persuaded to end his Test retirement.

But, batting down the order instead of his usual opening role, the 36-year-old left-hander and former captain fell for four.

Jayasuriya failed to get the pitch of a 90mph (150kph) delivery from the fired-up Flintoff, bowling much quicker than at Edgbaston, and was caught off the shoulder of the bat by Pietersen in the gully.

Earlier, a stand of 82 between left-handers Upul Tharanga (34) and Sangakkara (36) kept England at bay for most of the first session after Lewis had struck in his first over in Test cricket.

Flintoff initiated the slump by having Sangakkara caught by wicket-keeper Geraint Jones although replays suggested the batsman had missed the ball.

Sri Lanka had made just 192 and 141 respectively in the first innings of the previous two Tests.

And on Friday they saw 30-year-old Gloucestershire seamer Lewis, in for the dropped Sajid Mahmood after five times being 12th man, strike early when Edgbaston centurion Michael Vandort (one) played on after inside edging an attempted cover-drive.

First Published: Jun 03, 2006 01:50 IST