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Three-wicket Murali checks England

Muttiah Muralitharan bagged three vital wickets as Sri Lanka restricted England to 259-8 in the third Test.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2003 19:52 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Muttiah Muralitharan bagged three vital wickets as Sri Lanka restricted England to 259-8 despite blazing half-centuries from Andrew Flintoff and Marcus Trescothick in the third Test here on Thursday.

The champion off-spinner grabbed 3-38 off 37 disciplined overs to make England struggle for runs on the opening day after the tourists had elected to bat on an easy-paced pitch.

Chris Read was batting on 13 with James Kirtley (one) at stumps.

Muralitharan struck just when all-rounder Flintoff (77) and left-handed opener Trescothick (70) appeared to consolidate England's position with their aggressive knocks.

Flintoff pulled England out of trouble with an 87-run stand for the sixth wicket with tail-ender Gareth Batty (14) after his team had slipped from 108-1 to 139-5 in the space of 15 overs.

The England all-rounder counter-attacked vigorously, hitting four sixes and 10 fours in his 109-ball knock before offering a return catch to a diving Muralitharan in the closing session.

Muralitharan also ended England's early flourish when he dismissed Trescothick, who was involved in a run-a-minute stand 78 for the opening wicket with skipper Michael Vaughan (18).

The spinner, who sent down 20 maiden overs, also trapped Graham Thorpe (13) leg-before to ensure that England did not strengthen their position following the brisk start.

Flintoff and Trescothick were the only batsmen to apply themselves well against Muralitharan, but their team-mates found runs hard to come by against the accurate spinner.

Trescothick provided a solid start as he went for strokes from the beginning, fluently driving seamers Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando through the covers in his 21st Test half-century.

He smashed 13 fours in his 98-ball knock before being caught by Mahela Jayawardene at slip on the stroke of lunch.

England lost three quick wickets after Trescothick's dismissal before being rallied by Flintoff.

Flintoff dominated the stand with Batty, hoisting leg-spinner Upul Chandana for three sixes in his quick-fire knock before falling to Muralitharan for the fourth time in five innings of the ongoing series.

The all-rounder had survived a difficult chance on 68 when Chandana failed to latch on to a firm drive off his own bowling.

England suffered a mid-innings collapse when Mark Butcher (23), Nasser Hussain (eight) and Thorpe fell in quick succession.

Fernando induced an edge from Butcher and then former captain Hussain and Thorpe were trapped leg-before in the space of nine deliveries.

England made one change from the team that drew the second Test, bringing in fast bowler James Anderson for all-rounder Paul Collingwood.

Sri Lanka included Fernando and Chandana for Dinusha Fernando and Kumar Dharmasena.

The first two Tests at Galle and Kandy had ended in draws.

First Published: Dec 18, 2003 11:11 IST