England openers survive after being set 325
NOTTINGHAM, England, June 5 (Reuters) England, set a record victory target of 325 to win the third and final test against Sri Lanka today, reached 49 without loss by lunch on the fourth day.
Marcus Trescothick was 19 not out and Andrew Strauss on 24 after a tense hour's batting against the spinners.
Sri Lanka, though, look well-placed to share the series 1-1 before the teams meet in a five-match one-day series.
England's previous best fourth-innings total to win a test at Trent Bridge came two years ago when they made 284 for six to beat New Zealand. Their best winning fourth-innings total of all time was 332 for seven, against Australia in the timeless test' in Melbourne which ended in January 1929.
Trescothick had one lucky escape before the break. Having made four, he was hit around the ribs by fast bowler Lasith Malinga and the ball rolled down against his leg stump without dislodging the bail.
Fellow left-hander Strauss also had his close shaves. On 14 he pushed hard at a ball from Malinga which hit Upul Tharanga on his shoulder at short leg. The next ball failed to bounce at all and scuttled under Strauss's bat, shaving his off stump.
The morning had been dominated by England left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.
While he delighted his team mates with his first five-wicket haul in his sixth test, his success will also have pleased Muttiah Muralitharan, who seems certain to play a central role in the final act, played out on a dry, slow-paced wicket.
The Sri Lankans, resuming on 286 for seven, lost their last three wickets within the first hour while adding 36 runs.
Fast-medium bowler Liam Plunkett got Charmara Kapugedera (50) with the fourth ball of the day. The 19-year-old, having made an impeccable 50 not out on Sunday in only his second test, failed to get on top of a rising delivery and Alistair Cook caught the ball as it bounced up off his knee.
Panesar, who finished with five for 78 off 37.1 overs, bowled Malinga around his legs for 22 after a 33-run stand for the ninth wicket, then had Muralitharan caught in the deep for two. Chaminda Vaas ended on 34 not out, giving the number nine an extraordinary batting average of 92, Sri Lanka's best of the series.
England had to make do without Andrew Flintoff's bowling. He is due for a scan after hurting the same ankle which required an operation before last year's Ashes. Kevin Pietersen is another struggler -- he will bat with a sore hamstring which he tweaked while fielding.
England are due to announce their one-day squad on Wednesday, with the first game on June 17.
REUTERS PM PM1757