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Sri Lanka avert ignominy of three-day defeat

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, May 13 (Reuters) Sri Lanka today averted the ignominy of defeat within three days at Lord's with a combination of concentration and judicious stroke play after being asked to follow on in the first test against England.

The fightback began in the first session when Sri Lanka took their overnight total of 91 for six to 192 all out through some bold stroke play and lax England fielding.

Needing 359 to make England bat again, Sri Lanka lost an early wicket with only 10 runs on the board in their second innings before recovering to reach 183 for three at the close.

Matthew Hoggard was the day's hero, taking his 200th test wicket in the course of a fine spell of swing bowling to finish with four for 27 in the Sri Lanka first innings.

He then dismissed Jehan Mubarak for the second time in the match with a late inswinger which bowled the left-hander for six.

Hoggard made the early breakthrough when play resumed under leaden skies, taking a tumbling, two-handed return catch to dismiss Farveez Maharoof (22) after deceiving the all-rounder with an extravagant late outswinger.

England captain Andrew Flintoff, assuming the role of strike bowler in the absence of the injured Steve Harmison, was rewarded for his sustained pace with the wicket of his opposite number Mahela Jayawardene caught behind for 61 after 168 minutes of patient application.

CHANCES MISSED Chaminda Vaas (31) profited from dropped slip chances by Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss to add 61 runs for the ninth wicket with Nuwan Kulaskera (29) before Hoggard and Flintoff wrapped up the innings.

Sri Lanka looked down and out with Mubarak's dismissal before Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara combined in a second wicket partnership of 109, a record against England.

Tharanga, knowing he is probably fighting for the one opening spot available in the second test after the decision of Sananth Jayasuriya to come out of retirement, played some delightful cover-drives. He brought up his 50 and the 100 partnership with another sweetly timed drive off Flintoff.

Flintoff finally brought on left-arm spinner Monty Panesar from the Pavilion End shortly before tea for his first test over in England to a huge cheer from the crowd who had adopted England's first Sikh player as their favourite.

After the break as the sun broke through, Panesar quickly found his rhythm and was unlucky not to dismiss Sangakkara on 37 when wicketkeeper Geraint Jones failed to gather a sharp chance.

Jones made no mistake when Panesar clipped the outside edge of Tharanga's bat as the batsman tried to glide the ball square of the wicket and was caught for 52, compiled from 126 balls with seven fours.

Jayawardene, the only top-order batsman to show any sustained application in the first innings, again showed his class with neat footwork and deft deflections.

He watched as Sangakkara reached his 21st test 50 with four boundaries from 121 balls and continued to play with calm authority.

Sangakkara stroked Flintoff through the covers for a boundary then steered Sajid Mahmood to third man for another four to bring up the pair's second half-century partnership of the match.

Flintoff brought Panesar back into the attack and the move was immediately successful when Sangakkara, who had scored 65, gave Jones his second catch of the innings. Sangakkara struck six boundaries from 225 balls.

Panesar could have had a third wicket in the same over when nightwatchman Maharoof appeared to edge the ball on to his pad where it bounced to Flintoff at silly point but the appeal was turned down.

REUTERS SY PM2342

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