England's task to deny history and Muralitharan

First Test: Giles in fine form but tourists left to pray for rain as Jayawardene's gritty innings sets daunting final-day target
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If residents living close to the Lighthouse Hotel here witnessed a dozen or so Englishmen behaving strangely on the beach last night they should not be alarmed because the dance taking place would not have been tribal. It was Michael Vaughan and his side using all their powers to bring torrential rain to the southern tip of this tropical island.

To enter the last day of a match with such an attitude may appear unambitious when 319 runs are required for victory but realistically this is England's best chance of avoiding defeat here in the first Test.

History is against them. In the 66 Test matches played in Sri Lanka the team batting last has scored over 300 only once to win a game. This was in January 1998 when the home side knocked off the 326 they had been set by Zimbabwe. This game, however, was played at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo not the dust bowl in Galle.

And alhough this is becoming a ground England do not enjoy playing at, it could prove to be the place where Ashley Giles relaunched his Test career. The pitch may be perfect for a slow bowler but the left-arm spinner made the most of the favourable conditions. First-innings figures of 4 for 69 were his best for 18 months but he improved on these yesterday when he took 4 for 63. This was the first time in his 28 Test career that he had taken eight wickets in a match. It beat his previous best - 7 for 132 - against Pakistan in 2000.

Giles, however, is no Muttiah Muralitharan and comparing his figures - and those of Gareth Batty - with the Sri Lankan is unfair. Muralitharan is a one off. He is a magician with a ball in his hand and Shane Warne, the great Australian leg-spinner, would struggle to match him in his current form.

Giles is a limited but hard-working spinner who makes the most of his ability. The Warwickshire bowler has taken a fair amount of criticism in the last 12 months because of his poor form but he had every right to feel aggrieved when his movement in the field was compared to that of a wheelie-bin last summer.

Even though he is 30, and his job is not as physical as that of other members of the side, Giles trains as hard as any player. He remains one the fittest members of England's squad and this, along with a modest nature, makes him a highly respected and popular team-mate.

Inevitably, it was Giles who made England's first breakthrough when he controversially dismissed Chaminda Vaas in the 23rd over of the day. Playing forward, the left-hander did not get within six inches of the ball before it struck his pad, but this failed to stop umpire Venkat raising his finger and giving him out caught.

A frustrated Vaas left the crease but he could control his anger no more when he crossed the boundary, tossing his helmet and gloves to the ground. Sanath Jayasuriya was fined for reacting in a similar way the last time England were here and it would be a surprise if Vaas's actions do not end up with him paying Clive Lloyd, the match referee, a visit.

The loss of Vaas failed to disturb the concentration of Mahele Jayawardene whose painstaking innings was drawing comparisons to that of Mark Butcher in England's first innings. Solid and watchful in defence and content to take singles, this elegant right-hander gave everyone a lesson of how to bat on a turning pitch. His half-century took him 190 balls and contained only two boundaries.

Rain prevented play for two hours but the loss of time did not appear to cause panic once Sri Lankan began batting again. They already knew their lead of 253 was probably enough. During the break this realisation appeared to hit England who spent a large part of the afternoon attempting to reduce the number of overs they were likely to face today by wasting time.

The fact an England victory was drifting away did not deter Andrew Flintoff. The Lancashire all-rounder, who was again Vaughan's best bowler, continued to give each delivery everything he had. In an effort to cool himself down in the stifling heat he donned an ice-vest during a drinks break. It seemed to work because in his next over he claimed the wicket of Dinusha Fernando. With sweat dripping from every pore Flintoff looked as though he had won the World Cup final when he punched the air. For once the toil had been worthwhile.

This wicket and the arrival of Muralitharan in the middle proved to be the signal for Jayawardene to open his shoulders and show the range of stroke he had kept hidden. Flintoff was smashed over cover, Richard Johnson was pulled for two fours and before England could spell Muralitharan the pair had put on 46 runs. In the one over England faced before the rains returned Marcus Trescothick cut Vaas for four.

"Ashley has improved a lot since he was last here," said Jayawardene after his mammoth innings. "He didn't bowl many bad balls and was very accurate. To me he was the more difficult spinner to face because he turned the ball away from the bat but he did not get much help from the other end." England may have to rethink their bowling attack for the second Test.

Galle Scoreboard

Sri Lanka won the toss

Sri Lanka - First innings 331 (K C Sangakkara 71; A F Giles 4-69)

England - First innings 235 (M A Butcher 51; M Muralitharan 7-46)

Sri Lanka - Second innings

(Overnight: 99 for 5)

D P M D Jayawardene not out 86

312 min, 242 balls, 7 fours

W P U C J Vaas c Collingwood

b Giles 19

104 min, 72 balls, 3 fours

U D U Chandana lbw b Giles 19

65 min, 48 balls, 3 fours

H D P K Dharmasena lbw b Hoggard 2

41 min, 21 balls

K A D M Fernando c Trescothick

b Flintoff 1

5 min, 4 balls

M Muralitharan c Collingwood b Batty 13

50 min, 24 balls, 2 fours

Extras (b4, lb9) 13

Total (97.2 overs, 407 min) 226

Fall (cont): 6-123 (Vaas), 7-163 (Chandana), 8-179 (Dharmasena), 9-180 (Fernando), 10-226 (Muralitharan).

Bowling: Hoggard 9-2-33-1 (2-1-13-0, 4-0-11-0, 3-1-9-1); Johnson 7-2-28-0 (2-1-6-0, 3-1-7-0, 2-0-15-0); Flintoff 17-5-32-1 (1-0-4-0, 2-1-5-0, 6-2-7-0, 7-2-15-1, 1-0-1-0); Giles 40-14-63-4 (7-0-15-1, 12-8-9-1, 18-6-26-2, 3-0-13-0); Batty 23.2-7-55-3 (1-0-5-0, 12-4-23-2, 3-2-4-0, 7-1-22-0, 0.2-0-1-1); Vaughan 1-0-2-0.

Progress: Third day: Close: 99 for 5 (Jayawardene 14, Vaas 6) 44.3 overs. Fourth day: (min 94 overs) 100: 187 min, 47.5 overs. 150: 284 min, 71.2 overs. Rain stopped play 12.18pm 157 for 6 (Jayawardene 41, Chandana 17) 76 overs. Lunch taken. Restart delayed until 2.20pm. New ball taken after 86.4 overs at 179 for 8. 200: 378 min, 91.3 overs. Innings closed: 4.09pm - tea taken.

Jayawardene: 50: 231 min, 190 balls, 2 fours.

England - Second innings

M E Trescothick 4

4 min, 6 balls, 1 four

*M P Vaughan not out 0

4 min, 0 balls

Total (for 0, 1 over, 4 min) 4

Bowling: Vaas 1-0-4-0.

Progress: Fourth day: rain stopped play 4.33pm.

Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and S Venkataraghavan (India).

TV replay umpire: M G Silva (S Lanka).

Match referee: C H Lloyd (W Indies).