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Sri Lanka fight to wriggle out of England’s clutches

COLOMBO : Hosts Sri Lanka warded off England’s early threat as the rivals waged a grim struggle to take control of the second Test here on Monday.

Sri Lanka, replying to England’s first innings total of 351, recovered from 22-2 to post 105 without further loss by close of the second day’s play at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

Opener Michael Vandort and skipper Mahela Jayawardene frustrated England’s bid to run through the top order by adding 83 runs for the unbroken third wicket.

Left-handed Vandort was unbeaten on 50 and Jayawardene was on 43 on a batsman-friendly wicket that is expected to assist spin towards the end of what has turned out to be an absorbing match.

England, seeking a series-levelling win after losing the first Test in Kandy by 88 runs last week, battled with both bat and ball in a bid to seize the advantage.

Wicket-keeper Matthew Prior hit a second successive half-century and put on 74 runs for the eighth wicket with tailender Ryan Sidebottom (17) after England were struggling at 272-7 within the first hour of play.

Prior followed his 63 in the Kandy Test with a defiant 79 before he was last man out to the record-breaking Muttiah Muralitharan, who finished with his 62nd five-wicket haul.

The off-spinner, who surpassed Australian Shane Warne’s world record tally of 708 wickets in Kandy, finished with 5-116 as England lost their last three wickets for five runs.

Sri Lanka, however, began poorly as Sidebottom and Prior combined once again to remove recalled opener Upul Tharanga (10) and the in-form Kumar Sangakkara (one) by the ninth over.

Sangakkara’s wicket was crucial after the left-hander’s 152 at Kandy had made him the first batsman in Test history to compile 150-plus scores in four consecutive matches.

Vandort and Jayawardene, however, ensured there were no further setbacks for the hosts.

Earlier, England added 11 runs to their overnight score of 258-5 when left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas provided the first break in the seventh over of the day.

Paul Collingwood, 49 overnight, completed his seventh Test half-century before he was trapped leg-before by the spot-on Vaas for 52.

Test debutant Stuart Broad lasted only 12 minutes, making two before he fell leg-before to Lasith Malinga, giving the slinging-arm fast bowler his third wicket in the innings.

Australian umpire Daryl Harper, who on Sunday controversially ruled Kevin Pietersen out caught when TV replays showed the fielder may have scooped the ball off the ground, faced a similar situation again on Monday.

Sidebottom fended at a short ball from Dilhara Fernando and Mahela Jayawardene took the ball low at second slip.

Harper consulted his colleague Aleem Dar and then asked TV umpire Gamini Silva to rule if the catch had been taken cleanly.

Slow motion replays, however, found the ball had bounced off Sidebottom’s shoulder – and not the bat – and Silva ruled the batsman not out.

England captain Michael Vaughan had urged umpires on Sunday to “use common sense” and take the help of replays if there was any doubt about a dismissal.

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