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Murali bowls Sri Lanka to victory

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June 05, 2006 23:01 IST


Muttiah Muralitharan single-handedly scythed through England's top order to take Sri Lanka close to a series-saving victory in the third and final Test against England on Monday.

The home side, 1-0 up in the series and set a record 325 to win on a dry, wearing pitch, collapsed from 84 without loss to 125 for six at tea on the fourth day, with the off spinner taking all the wickets.

Muralitharan at one stage took four for seven runs in 31 balls, including the scalps of Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen in the same over. Wicket to wicket, he took six for 13 off 69 balls.

The possibility of only the third Test 10-wicket haul by a bowler in one innings was looming large, with no other Sri Lankan bowler posing a significant threat.

Geraint Jones, the last recognised batsman, was on two not out with Liam Plunkett yet to score.

Sri Lanka, in truth, had always looked well placed after an excellent performance by their batsmen in the second innings, when they scored 322 after 231 in the first.

Muralitharan spent most of Monday morning licking his lips as he watched England's young spinner Monty Panesar wrap up the Sri Lankan innings by completing figures of five for 78, his first Test five-wicket haul.


By then, the dry pitch was becoming increasingly erratic in bounce and looked more Colombo than Trent Bridge.

England's batsmen looked fine against the new ball attack but things changed dramatically despite an encouraging start.

Marcus Trescothick, facing Muralitharan from over the wicket, opened up his stance and opted to play a fraction inside the line, neutralising the threat of the doosra, which he clearly could not pick, while allowing any off spinners to break past his off stump.

On 31, however, Trescothick got it wrong, playing back only for another doosra to cut through his defences and clip the stumps.

Alastair Cook never looked comfortable. He was given one life, dropped behind off Sanath Jayasuriya's left-arm spin, but contributed only five runs before he was bamboozled by a straight ball from Muralitharan which trapped him lbw.

Strauss, like Trescothick, looked well organised, cashing in on anything loose as he drove Chaminda Vaas for two fours in an over, off front foot and back on his way to a top score of 55.

But he also fell to a Muralitharan doosra, which came back into him and took the edge of his bat. Kumar Sangakkara could not hold on to the chance but it looped into the air off the wicketkeeper's gloves and straight to Mahela Jayawardene at first slip, making it 111 for three.

Pietersen and Flintoff were soon trudging back to the pavilion as well. Both pushed forward and both were caught at short leg, the former off pad and glove. Paul Collingwood made nine before he was also caught in the same position after playing the ball on to his boot.

The only threat from Jayasuriya at the other end was when the ball failed to bounce after hitting the bowler's footmarks.

England's 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 in 1928-9.

Tony Lawrence
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