Sangakkara finds form to deny England

England 377-8 Sri Lanka 184 & 334-5 (England draw with Sri Lanka)
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The Independent Online

England had to settle for a 1-0 npower series victory after Kumar Sangakkara defiantly compiled his first international hundred in this country to salvage a stalemate at the Rose Bowl.

Sangakkara (119) oversaw stands of 75 with Rangana Herath and 141 with Thilan Samaraweera (87no) on the final day of the third Test to carry Sri Lanka to apparent safety - even before forecast rain returned, slightly behind schedule at teatime, to prevent further play and confirm the draw.



Sangakkara, persuaded to stand in as captain here because of Tillakaratne Dilshan's thumb injury, had abundant motivation to keep England at bay - albeit in the knowledge the tourists could no longer level the series.



National pride was at stake after Sri Lanka's brittle performances in this rainy summer so far, and there was doubtless personal hunger too - to redress the balance of a decade of under-achievement on his travels to England for a batsman of his world-class pedigree.



The upshot was a near immovable tour-de-force contribution to Sri Lanka's 334 for five, and lead of 141.



England appeared to have run out of firepower and ideas as Sangakkara shut them out on a pitch which had lost a little of its fire but still provided occasional extra bounce.



There was some swing too, under persistent cloud cover.



Yet Sangakkara never gave a glimpse of a chance on his way to and beyond his 25th Test hundred, rarely troubled during a 249-ball and 378-minute stay which contained 16 fours and ended only when he speared a catch to substitute fielder Adam Rouse at point off James Anderson.



An England victory here would have put them up to joint second place with South Africa, behind India, in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings.



Instead, they will have to content themselves with a minority verdict on the back of a one-session victory surge for a remarkable conclusion to the first Test in Cardiff - where it rained almost as much as it has here over the past five days.



After enduring a wicketless first hour in largely favourable bowling conditions this morning, England already appeared up against it to force the result.



Sangakkara started today with an unbeaten 44 to his name and almost immediately added a square drive for four in the first over off Chris Tremlett.



England had three clear-cut opportunities to shift Herath.



But the nightwatchman survived on five, seven and 19.



First, he was dropped by Andrew Strauss high at first slip off Anderson when Graeme Swann's movement across the captain in the cordon did not help.



Then Anderson had two stumps to aim at from cover, with Herath short of his ground for Sangakkara's sharp single.



Finally, England chose not to review Rod Tucker's not-out lbw verdict when Herath was hit on the front pad in defence by Swann. The decision would have been overturned on DRS.



England's woes continued when Stuart Broad limped off with a bruised left heel - a worrying injury for their new Twenty20 captain, able to bowl again but a doubt perhaps for next weekend's short-format match against these same opponents at Bristol.



In Broad's absence, Strauss had to turn to the medium-pace of Jonathan Trott - which yielded five via a Tremlett overthrow first ball, bringing up Sangakkara and Herath's 50 stand in an over which cost 15 runs.



By the time Herath went, lbw when Swann hit him on the back leg after missing a sweep, he had served his team especially well by eating up 72 deliveries.



Sangakkara was predictably unfazed - and in company with Sri Lanka's last frontline batsman Samaraweera, he duly put his team in front before lunch with an extra-cover drive off Anderson.



Sangakkara made it his duty to dig in again after the break.



It took him 35 minutes to add to his 89, determination apparently redoubled that he would not squander his hard work and allow England a shot at victory after all.



He had not bettered 26 in five previous Test innings on this tour yet simply became more and more assured, his trademark driving through the off side particularly memorable.



There were minor moments of fortune for both him and Samaraweera after lunch, each edging steepling deliveries over the slips.



But they were scraps of fleeting encouragement for England, as Samaraweera passed his 50 from 72 balls and began to score at a rate which swiftly made the match safe.



* Sri Lanka pace bowler Dilhara Fernando is doubtful for the forthcoming limited-overs series against England, because of a leg-muscle injury.

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