Sri Lanka 141 England 138-3: Plunkett puts England on top but dropping is catching

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The Independent Online

A fine display of fast bowling from England and shoddy batting from Sri Lanka allowed Andrew Flintoff's side to dominate the opening day of the second Test. After bowling the tourists out cheaply and reaching 138 for 3 by the close, England are in total control of the match, but the performance was far from perfect.

England's wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones, and slips hung on to seven catches of varying difficulty but they grassed four further chances. Monty Panesar dropped a sitter at mid-off and failed to get a hand on one at leg-gully, catches that would have reduced Sri Lanka's total considerably and allowed Liam Plunkett to take his first five-wicket haul for England.

The pitch did offer assistance to the bowlers and no batsman passed 30, but it was by no means a surface that was impossible to bat on. At times batting looked relatively easy but bowlers knew that if they pitched the ball in the right area often enough something would happen.

Each of England's top three batsmen passed 20 before failing to negotiate the mystery of Muttiah Muralitharan. Marcus Trescothick was caught behind cutting and Alastair Cook failed to read the doosra, but it was the farcical dismissal of Andrew Strauss that highlighted the confusion that Muralitharan creates.

Strauss pushed the ball on the leg side and was called for a run by Cook, but rather than trust the decision of his partner, and not knowing exactly where the ball had gone, he watched it instead of running. The delay allowed Michael Vandort to take aim from short fine leg and hit the stumps at the bowler's end with Strauss two yards out.

Plunkett took the vital wickets of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and finished with creditable figures of 3 for 43. He received excellent support from Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Sajid Mahmood, who took two wickets each.

Hoggard seldom fails to take a wicket with the new ball and he once again gave England the perfect start when, with the fifth ball of the day, a delightful in-swinger pierced the tentative push of Upul Tharanga and knocked back his off stump. The sight of a Sri Lankan opener trudging back to the visitors' dressing-room without a run to his name was exactly what England wanted after spending more than 18 hours in the field in the drawn first Test at Lord's, and it immediately provoked debate about Sanath Jayasuriya's exclusion from the team.

But the belief that the return of Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka's record Test run scorer, would end the tourists' problems at the top of the order are ill-founded. Jayasuriya was once one of the most destructive batsmen in the world, but in his last 10 Tests he has averaged only 15.

One of the features of the Test at Lord's was that Flintoff bowled himself at all the crucial moments. But here, after three ineffective overs with the new ball, he chose to delegate. It proved to be an inspired decision.

Plunkett replaced Flintoff at the Pavilion End and dismissed Vandort with his third ball. Plunkett then claimed the scalp England wanted most when a magnificent leg-cutter trimmed the edge of Jayawardene's bat three balls later.

At Lord's very little went Plunkett's way, but he had now taken 2 for 0 in one over. The contrast, though frustrating, will have cheered him. Bowlers often believe they are not bowling well when they fail to take wickets, and are often encouraged to change tactics. It is the wrong thing to do and on this occasion Plunkett wisely continued to bowl as he had in the first Test and fortune went his way.

There was nothing lucky about the dismissal of Jayawardene or Sangakkara, Plunkett's third victim. Sangakkara, like Jayawardene, was undone by a ball that bounced and left him, allowing Geraint Jones to do the rest. Hoggard picked up his second wicket when Thilan Sameraweera drove loosely and edged a low catch to slip, and in the final over before lunch Sajid Mahmood became the third England bowler to find success in his opening over when Farveez Maharoof was caught behind for five.

With Sri Lanka on 65 for 6 at the interval England would have been hoping to dismiss the tourists for less than 100, especially when shortly after lunch when Flintoff and Mahmood claimed a wicket apiece in consecutive overs.

Panesar, with Sri Lanka on 84 for 8, then dropped Lasith Malinga. Chaminda Vaas and Malinga made the most of the opportunity by adding 48 further runs. Panesar made amends when he trapped Malinga leg before but his England career will be short if he continues to drop catches as simple as this.

Flintoff wrapped the Sri Lankan innings up when Muralitharan, his close friend, slogged one in the air. It completed an excellent day in the field for the England captain.

Scoreboard from Edgbaston

Second npower Test (Edgbaston; first day of five)

Sri Lanka won toss

Sri Lanka - First innings

M G Vandort c Collingwood b Plunkett 9 33mins, 19 balls, 1 four

W U Tharanga b Hoggard 0 3mins, 2 balls

ÝK C Sangakkara c Jones b Plunkett 25 87mins, 61 balls, 4 fours

*D P M D Jayawardene c Jones b Plunkett 0 2mins, 3 balls

T T Samaraweera c Collingwood b Hoggard 3 22mins, 16 balls

T M Dilshan c Trescothick b Flintoff 27 79mins, 48 balls, 4 fours

M F Maharoof c Jones b Mahmood 5 28mins, 21 balls

W P U C J Vaas not out 30 117mins, 78 balls, 3 fours

K M D N Kulasekara c Trescothick b Mahmood 3 7mins, 8 balls

S L Malinga lbw b Panesar 26 78min, 54 balls, 4 fours

M Muralitharan c Plunkett b Flintoff 1 9mins, 4 balls

Extras (b0, lb6, w0, nb6) 12

Total (237mins, 51.2 overs) 141

Fall: 1-3 (Tharanga), 2-16 (Vandort), 3-16 (Jayawardene), 4-25 (Samaraweera), 5-46 (Sangakkara), 6-65 (Maharoof), 7-79 (Dilshan), 8-82 (Kulasekara), 9-132 (Malinga), 10-141 (Muralitharan).

Bowling: Hoggard 15-4-32-2 (8-3-16-2; 4-0-11-0; 3-1-5-0); Flintoff 13.2-4-28-2 (nb4) (3-0-9-0; 3-3-0-0; 3-1-2-1; 4.2-0-17-1); Plunkett 12-1-43-3 (nb2) (8-1-28-3; 4-0-15-0); Mahmood 9-1-25-2 (6-1-12-2; 3-0-13-0); Panesar 2-0-7-1 (one spell).

Progress: First day: 50: 97mins, 20.3 overs. Lunch: 65-6 (Dilshan 16) 25.3 overs. 100: 187mins, 39.3 overs. Innings closed: 3.37pm - tea taken.

England - First innings

M E Trescothick c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 27 75mins, 51 balls, 5 fours

A J Strauss run out (Samaraweera) 30 95mins, 65 balls, 5 fours

A N Cook lbw b Muralitharan 23 62mins, 55 balls, 3 fours

K P Pietersen not out 30 58mins, 34 balls, 4 fours, 1 six

M J Hoggard not out 2 15min, 11 balls

Extras (b2, lb8, nb11, pens5) 26

Total (for 3, 154 mins, 34 overs) 138

Fall: 1-56 (Trescothick), 2-69 (Pietersen), 3-125 (Cook).

To bat: P D Collingwood, *A Flintoff, ÝG O Jones, L E Plunkett, S I Mahmood, M S Panesar.

Bowling: Vaas 6-2-12-0 (one spell); Malinga 8-1-56-0 (nb3) (3-1-11-0; 2-0-19-0; 3-0-26-0); Maharoof 8-3-22-0 (nb3); Muralitharan 9-1-24-2 (nb4); Kulasekara 3-0-9-0 (nb1) (one spell each).

Progress: First day: 50: 65mins, 14.5 overs. 100 in 118 mins, 25.3 overs.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and D B Hair (Aus).

TV replay umpire: I J Gould.

Match referee: A G Hurst .

Moment of the day

Batting without a box is not recommended, but it is what Lasith Malinga did yesterday. Realising his vulnerability after three deliveries, he sheepishly ran towards the dressing-room, where the Sri Lankan 12th man provided him with the security he was after.

Shot of the day

Kevin Pietersen lit up a rather dour first day with a breezy batting display. He announced his arrival by striking Farveez Maharoof for two fours, but the best shot he played was off Muttiah Muralitharan, whom he effortlessly chipped into the pavilion for six.

Ball of the day

Batsmen often feel they get themselves out, but there was little Mahela Jayawardene could do about the Liam Plunkett delivery that removed him yesterday. It pitched on a good length, moved away and flicked the edge of the bat. Geraint Jones did the rest.


Cloudy after morning rain. TV: Sky Sports 1, 10.30. Highlights: Five, 19.15.