Second Test ends in stalemate

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The Independent Online

Yet another Alastair Cook hundred failed to give England the impetus required to force victory in the second npower Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's.

Cook (106) reached his sixth hundred in 12 Test innings - a remarkable statistic thought unprecedented among Englishmen - sharing a century stand this morning with Kevin Pietersen (72).

But Andrew Strauss did not feel sufficiently comfortable to declare before mid-afternoon, on 335 for seven and setting Sri Lanka a notional 343 to win in 58 overs.

On a pitch which refused to deteriorate noticeably, England were then unable to make the necessary inroads.

Unlike in Cardiff last week, Sri Lanka cosily closed out the draw by reaching the safety of 127 for three to stay just 1-0 down in this three-match series.

In 13 overs before tea, they lost Kumar Sangakkara - acting captain and deputising opener, in the absence of the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan - caught at gully off Chris Tremlett.

But a half-century stand followed between Mahela Jayawardene and the stoic Tharanga Paranavitana until the number three was brilliantly caught by Pietersen at fourth slip off Stuart Broad.

England bowled better than they had for much of the first innings, keeping more testing lines as they tried to apply pressure on vulnerable opponents.

Thilan Samaraweera survived on four only thanks to DRS when he shouldered arms at Graeme Swann and was initially given out lbw by Billy Doctrove to a delivery which simulation suggested was not turning enough.

Strauss decided his frontline options needed a rest, and his decision to turn to Jonathan Trott paid off in the medium-pacer's second over when he got enough swing to beat the left-hander's forward defence and see him off lbw once 'Hotspot' demonstrated the ball hit pad before bat.

There were still more than 25 overs left to take seven wickets - including Dilshan's - against a team who lost all 10 in less than that last week.

But Sri Lanka were doubly determined not to suffer a SWALEC action replay, and the middle order dug in successfully.

This morning's prospect of an individual century was especially notable for both Cook and Pietersen, for contrasting reasons.

But Pietersen, who has not made a century on home soil since 2008 against South Africa at The Oval in his first match as captain, instead fell again to left-arm spin.

It required a fine delivery from Rangana Herath - turning one sharply from leg stump to beat a forward-defensive lunge, hit off and complete Pietersen's 20th Test dismissal to the same style of bowling.

As England set out with apparent intent on a tempo to aid an early declaration, the strokeplay came principally from Pietersen, while Cook was on message too with some urgency between the wickets at least.

Successive driven fours, past mid-off and then back past the bowler, were the most memorable of six boundaries in Pietersen's 85-ball 50.

There were minor moments of fortune for each player, Pietersen edging a four down the leg-side through wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene's fingertips on 54 off Dilhara Fernando and Cook then nicking one from Herath (three for 87) for another lucky boundary past leg-stump in the next over.

As hundreds began to loom for both players, a caution - which was at odds with the match situation - appeared to creep in.

Sri Lanka's bowlers increasingly gave little away, and the run rate slowed.

Pietersen's departure shortly before lunch was a personal setback but did not significantly hinder his team, because Ian Bell (57no) came in and hit three of his first seven balls for four and pressed on to his second half-century of the match from only 40 deliveries.

Cook's progress was more laboured. He took 223 balls over his hundred - 137 of them to make his second 50 - and it fell to others to take most chances.

The opener was eventually stumped trying to manufacture quick runs off Herath. But the selfless innings came from Bell and then Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior, who both fell cheaply in the cause - the latter leaving in understandable anger after a run-out mix-up.

The England wicketkeeper subsequently found himself having to apologise to a female spectator, cut by shattering glass when he accidentally broke a dressing-room window.

On a day which ended in predictable yet perhaps avoidable stalemate, Prior might not have been the only England player tonight wishing he had done things slightly differently.

Meanwhile, Dilshan has a hairline fracture of his right thumb, after being hit twice by Tremlett in this match.

His participation in the third and final Test at the Rose Bowl is therefore in doubt.