Sri Lanka 231 England 53-2: England need to capitalise on Flintoff's exertions

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The Independent Online

Andrew Flintoff selflessly gave England's swingers the advantage of bowling with the new ball on the opening morning of the third Test here yesterday, but after 70 minutes he had seen enough. The subtle probing of Matthew Hoggard, Jon Lewis and Liam Plunkett had brought only limited success, with England taking one wicket as Sri Lanka's top order moved serenely along. Flintoff decided that it was time for a bit of puff and grunt.

And, inevitably, it was the England captain who provided his team with the thunder and purpose that had been lacking from much of the opening exchanges, taking 3 for 21 in a hostile 10-over spell either side of lunch. The sight of Flintoff roaring in from the Pavilion End and sending down 90mph thunderbolts jolted the other members of England's attack into action, and but for an entertaining last-wicket stand of 62 between Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan Sri Lanka's total would have been paltry.

The remaining seven wickets were shared among England's swing bowlers, with Lewis marking his Test debut with the commendable figures of 3 for 68. England will have been delighted to have bowled Sri Lanka out for 231 on a good Trent Bridge pitch, but by the close they had lost both openers for the addition of 53 runs.

Andrew Strauss was bowled when he misjudged the length of a Vaas delivery, and Marcus Trescothick was run out when he foolishly took on the arm of Lasith Malinga. Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen survived a couple of close shouts before the end of play and the home dressing-room will hope not to see either before lunch today, by which time England should have wiped off a large part of the 178-run deficit.

It was Lewis, the oldest swinger in town, who gave England, and himself, the perfect start when he uprooted Michael Vandort's leg-stump in his first over of Test cricket. Having been made 12th man on numerous occasions Lewis must have wondered whether he would ever make his Test debut, and the manner in which he was mobbed by his team-mates highlighted the affection with which he is held in the side.

Lewis has bowled with skill and heart for Gloucestershire during the past decade but his selection ahead of Sajid Mahmood is slightly mystifying. The damp, overcast conditions that preceded Tests at Lord's and Edgbaston would have provided Lewis, a traditional and accurate medium pacer, with ideal conditions in which to bowl, yet on both occasions they chose Mahmood. But here, with the sun shining and a dry, firm, abrasive pitch to bowl on, they opted for an ageing orthodox swinger ahead of a youthful, fast reverse-swinger.

Nobody would begrudge Lewis the honour of representing his country and England will consider the change to have been justified after watching him take 3 for 68 in 21 overs, but it would be a surprise to see him lining up ahead of Mahmood against Pakistan at Lord's on 13 July, or against Australia in Brisbane on 23 November.

The dismissal of Vandort, who inside-edged a drive on to his leg stumps, gave the Sri Lankan innings an all too predictable start. Vandort scored a superb century at Edgbaston but in five innings the openers have yet to post an opening partnership greater than 10.

The ease with which England's bowlers dismissed Sri Lanka in the previous two Tests may have lulled the hosts into a false sense of control, and contributed to the mediocre fare that followed. Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara had the occasional worrying moment against the swinging ball but both were given plenty of scoring opportunities as Hoggard, Lewis and Plunkett overpitched.

But the entire nature of the day changed when Flintoff decided to introduce himself into the attack. In his first over he let the Sri Lankan batsman know he meant business by whizzing a couple of well directed bouncers past their noses before searching for the outside edge of the bat.

Sangakkara faced the bulk of Flintoff's bowling and Sri Lanka had moved on to 84 for 1 before he was given out caught behind by umpire Darrell Hair on 36. The Sri Lankan wicket-keeper did not look happy with the decision and he had every right to be: television replays showed that the ball flicked his left thigh rather than the edge of his bat.

Flintoff and England could not have cared less. They needed a wicket and an umpire had adjudged one had been taken. Hoggard claimed England's third in the next over when Tharanga drove at a widish ball and offered Geraint Jones a simple chance.

The good work of Sangakkara and Tharanga evaporated completely in the final over before the interval when a Flintoff lifter clipped the edge of Mahela Jayawardene's bat to give Jones his third catch of the morning. Sri Lanka had now lost 3 for 2 in 14 balls and the advantage of winning the toss had disappeared.

Tillekeratne Dilshan perished after the interval when he drove loosely at a Lewis away-swinger, and Sanath Jayasuriya showed only one glimpse of what he is capable of before becoming Flintoff's third victim.

Farveez Maharoof edged a good ball from Hoggard to Flintoff at second slip and when Chamara Kapugedera highlighted how vulnerable Sri Lanka's batsmen are outside off stump 150 looked out of their reach.

Sensible batting from Vaas, along with calculated swiping from Malinga and Muralitharan, enable the tourists' last two wickets to add 92 runs. They could yet prove vital.

Scoreboard from Trent Bridge

Sri Lanka won toss; first day of five

Sri Lanka - First innings

M G Vandort b Lewis 1

6 min, 7 balls

W U Tharanga c Jones b Hoggard 34

117 min, 72 balls, 6 fours

ÝK C Sangakkara c Jones b Flintoff 36

102 min, 76 balls, 5 fours

*D P M D Jayawardene c Jones b Flintoff 0

13 min, 9 balls

T M Dilshan c Flintoff b Lewis 8

17 min, 10 balls, 1 four

S T Jayasuriya c Pietersen b Flintoff 4

29 min, 21 balls, 1 four

C K Kapugedera c Strauss b Plunkett 14

59 min, 31 balls, 2 fours

M F Maharoof c Flintoff b Hoggard 13

27 min, 24 balls, 2 fours

W P U C J Vaas not out 38

121 min, 94 balls, 5 fours

S L Malinga c Pietersen b Lewis 21

49 min, 45 balls, 3 fours

M Muralitharan c Flintoff b Plunkett 33

56 min, 29 balls, 3 fours, 1 six

Extras (b4 lb3 w2, nb20) 29

Total (302 min, 66.2 overs) 231

Fall: 1-2 (Vandort) 2-84 (Sangakkara) 3-85 (Tharanga) 4-86 (Jayawardene) 5-97 (Dilshan) 6-105 (Jayasuriya) 7-129 (Maharoof) 8-139 (Kapugedera) 9-169 (Malinga) 10-231 (Muralitharan).

Bowling: Hoggard 17-3-65-2 (nb4) (5-0-22-0, 3-1-10-1, 5-2-14-1, 4-0-19-0); Lewis 21-3-68-3 (nb3 w1) (4-1-11-1, 5-1-10-0, 6-1-21-1, 6-0-26-1); Plunkett 8.2-1-36-2 (nb4 w1) (3-0-18-0, 5-1-17-1, 0.2-0-1-1); Flintoff 15-2-52-3 (nb9) (10-2-21-3, 5-0-31-0); Panesar 5-3-3-0 (one spell).

Progress: First day: 50: 60 min, 13.1 overs. Lunch: 86-4 (Dilshan 0) 25.4 overs. 100: 146 min, 30.2 overs. 150: 221 min, 46.2 overs. Tea: 160-8 (Vaas 10, Malinga 13) 51 overs. 200: 267 min, 56.4 overs. Innings closed: 5.0pm.

England - First innings

M E Trescothick run out (Malinga-Sangakkara TV replay) 24

59 min, 38 balls, 4 fours

A J Strauss b Vaas 7

38 min, 28 balls

A N Cook not out 12

41 min, 32 balls

K P Pietersen not out 6

20 min, 11 balls, 1 four

Extras (b1 lb2 nb1) 4

Total (for 2, 80 min, 17 overs) 53

Fall: 1-25 (Strauss) 2-39 (Trescothick).

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

Bowling: Vaas 9-2-21-1, Malinga 5-0-21-0, Muralitharan 4-0-8-0 (nb1) (one spell each).

Progress: First day: 50: 75 min, 16.3 overs.

Umpires: D B Hair (Aus) and R E Koertzen (SA).

TV replay umpire: P J Hartley.

Match referee: A G Hurst.