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Tillekeratne challenges SL to polish up

Sri Lanka's captain Hashan Tillekeratne said on Sunday he expects an improved performance from his players in the second Test against England.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2003 13:33 IST

Sri Lanka's captain Hashan Tillekeratne said on Sunday he expects an improved performance from his players in the second five-day Test against England, after the tourists were dominated but managed a draw here in their first match.

Frustrated at falling just one wicket short of clinching his first Test win as captain in the series opener that ended Saturday, Tillekeratne said the Sri Lankan team needs to concentrate on the remaining two matches of the series.

"We need to brush up our act. There's scope to improve in a few areas," Tillekeratne said after watching England narrow escape.

Set a target of 323 to win, England was 210 for nine when the umpires offered bad light to England's last pair — Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard — ending Sri Lanka's run of five-straight Test wins in this southern coastal town.

Sri Lanka had won six out of the previous eight Tests played here, and lost just one.

The awesome winning record included an innings triumph against Nasser Hussain's England side in the series opener two years ago.

England later bounced back to clinch the series 2-1, winning the next two Tests in Kandy and Colombo, where the tracks don't spin as much as in Galle.

England repeated the series triumph last year when it prevailed 1-0 at home, and Tillekeratne has promised to settle the score.

"We'll overcome the dejection of failing to win this Test and come out stronger in the next two matches," Tillekeratne said as the teams prepared to leave for the temple town of Kandy where the second Test starts Wednesday.

"Our morale is quite high. The way we dominated this match will spur the boys," he said. "There were several positives to emerge from this game. We played lovely cricket.

"One big plus was the batting by our lower order, but our top batsmen should convert the 30s and 40s into big scores."

Tillekeratne own form continued to be poor in that regard, scoring zero and one in two innings.

The Sri Lankan skipper said England managed to bat out the final day of the Test because the pitch had become very slow, even though it offered turn to his ace spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

"It was an easy pitch to defend on, but could have been difficult for stroke players. England's batsmen weren't going for the runs anyway," he said.

Tillekeratne praised the valiant effort of Muralitharan, who emerged as the man-of-the-match by claiming 11 for 93 — his 12th 10-wicket haul in 83 Tests.

"We sensed victory till the end. All we needed was one good ball," said Muralitharan, who claimed 48 wickets in the course of Sri Lanka's five previous wins here.

His captain agreed, saying there was "no moral victory" for the tourists.

"We nearly won the Test and were the dominant team throughout," Tillekeratne said.

England's captain Michael Vaughan complimented his batsmen for smothering Muralitharan's prodigious spin and salvage a draw. "The way everyone nullified him was a great effort," said Vaughan.

"Coming out of Galle with a draw after losing the toss was a fantastic result," he said.

Vaughan said the Test was an outstanding effort, "considering we were hammered the last time we played here."

He exuded confidence of a better performance at Kandy, where England's seam-oriented attack will get favorable conditions.

First Published: Dec 07, 2003 13:33 IST