Prior hits century in defeat

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The Independent Online

Matthew Prior's brilliant century went to waste as England A slumped to a 39-run defeat against their Sri Lanka counterparts in Colombo yesterday.

Matthew Prior's brilliant century went to waste as England A slumped to a 39-run defeat against their Sri Lanka counterparts in Colombo yesterday.

Failures at the top and bottom of the England batting line-up cost them dearly, with the home side's victory ensuring a draw in the two-match series.

Vikram Solanki, Ian Bell and Owais Shah each went for ducks as England, chasing 285 for victory, slumped to 3 for 3 after 2.4 overs. They lost further wickets and were 25 for 5 when Prior, the 23-year-old Sussex wicketkeeper came in.

Essex's 20-year-old opener Alastair Cook eventually succumbed for 36, becoming the first of three victims in the second innings for the leg-spinner Malinga Bandara, who finished with match figures of 11 for 126.

Cook's departure, with the score on 103, brought Graeme Swann to the middle and the Nottinghamshire all-rounder followed Prior's lead by despatching the Sri Lankan bowlers to all corners of the Nondescripts Cricket Club ground.

They put on 126 for the seventh wicket, scoring at a run a ball, and put England within sight of their victory target.

Swann had swatted 71 from 64 deliveries when he fell to the part-time spinner Thilina Kandamby, and this time the effect was terminal. Paul Franks and Richard Dawson went cheaply and quickly, rather than offering the support Prior so urgently needed.

The centurion was last man out, for 104 made from 106 deliveries, with the man of the match Bandara appropriately taking his wicket.

England scored their runs quickly, even though they could have come back today. Their victory target had been set just before lunch, when Sri Lanka's second innings stalled at 296.

The match had seen both teams struggle in their first innings, with Sri Lanka posting 145 and England replying with only 157. Sri Lanka began their second innings today on 211 for 5 and Bandara again inflicted damage on England, coming in at number eight and scoring a rapid 50 before being caught and bowled by Dawson, who, like Swann, claimed three wickets.

In the senior side, the captain, Michael Vaughan, has been granted a month off at the start of the domestic season following his winter exploits for England in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The captain will sit out all competitive cricket until 6 May, when he will be available for Yorkshire's County Championship home match with Northamptonshire. He will then have a second four-day county match, against Leicestershire, to prepare himself for the opening Test of two against Bangladesh, which begins at Lord's on 26 May.

Others of the dozen players centrally contracted by the England and Wales Cricket Board will have their early season participation limited after their coach, Duncan Fletcher, prepared individual schedules. The injured players Andrew Flintoff and Mark Butcher are to be assessed before a decision is made upon their resumption.