Vaughan's fighting spirit secures draw

Sri Lanka 382 and 279-7 dec England 294 and 285-7 Match drawn
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Those who thought England would become a soft touch under Michael Vaughan's relaxed style of leadership should think again. Nasser Hussain may have ruled with an iron fist during his four years in charge, but England's ability to scrap and fight has, if anything, increased since Vaughan took over.

England can take enormous satisfaction from successfully coming through their second "great escape" in nine days. To bat for 140 overs in the fourth innings of a Test match in Sri Lanka against one of the greatest spin bowlers ever took skill and grit, and leaves the series all square with the final Test beginning on Thursday.

They were helped by the unbelievably defensive tactics of the Sri Lanka captain, Hashan Tillakaratne - who positioned four fielders on the boundary for most of the day - and several favourable umpiring decisions, but Vaughan did not deserve to be on the losing side following his magnificent century.

For six and a half hours the opener refused to allow himself to play his natural game. There must have been times when he wanted to slog-sweep the spinners over mid-wicket or pull Chaminda Vaas off a length but Vaughan held firm. He put the team's goals ahead of his own and blunted everything the Sri Lankans threw at him.

During the afternoon session Vaughan scored 16 runs in two hours' play and it took him 85 minutes to move from 90 to his 10th Test century. Reaching three figures could be a significant moment in his career because this was his first century since taking over as captain.

"Last summer I was still thinking about the captaincy when I went out to bat," Vaughan said after collecting the man-of-the-match award. "I thought I had to do everything. But when I went away to Bangladesh I decided that when I go out to bat I am just a batter and my job is to get England off to a good start.

"This was a harder game to save than Galle but to bat for that length of time against Murali and Vaas was a top effort. To get a draw I knew it was going to take someone to play a real long innings and I am just glad it was me today. This was my best hundred to date."

Vaughan, however, must have feared his efforts would be wasted when he made a rare but costly mistake on 105. England were six wickets down and there were still 25 overs of the match to be bowled when the 29-year-old attempted to flick Muttiah Muralitharan through the leg side for a single.

The out-of-form Chris Read had just replaced Andrew Flintoff at the crease and Vaughan was attempting to push a single so that he could protect his inexperienced partner. To his horror, the ball flicked the inside edge of his bat, hit his pad and lobbed to the right of Tillakaratne Dilshan, who took a brilliant one-handed catch at short leg.

Vaughan received a standing ovation from everybody but the Sri Lankan team as he left the Asgiriya stadium. Following the unpleasant altercations which took place earlier in this match nobody was expecting England's opponents to form a guard of honour, but the reaction of the home side highlighted the bitterness which exists between these two teams. The Sri Lankans had no reason to be sour with Vaughan because he had not been the benefactor of some very poor and random umpiring.

Vaughan's exit left England's hopes of a draw resting in the hands of two young cricketers with only 10 Test caps between them. Read and Gareth Batty, however, are feisty little characters and the pair refused to be put off by the constant noise coming from the quartet of fielders who were now positioned around the bat.

Each survived the odd scare, even though television replays suggested they were out, and Tillakaratne attempted to make up for his early caution by setting attacking fields and changing his bowlers.

One end, of course, was Muralitharan's. In 56 overs, the little maestro tried everything he could to break England's resolve but in the end he and Sri Lanka were beaten by an excellent pitch and a lack of support.

Vaas gave his side the perfect start when he dismissed Hussain with the fourth ball of the day, but the home side had to wait until after lunch to claim their fourth wicket. With Graham Thorpe out, Sri Lanka sensed victory but Paul Collingwood gave his captain staunch support.

During their partnership, and following an unsuccessful appeal against Collingwood for a bat-pad catch, it looked as though events were about to turn ugly when the umpire Daryl Harper walked down the wicket to have a word with the wicket-keeper, Kumar Sangakkara. Harper warned the chatterbox that what he was saying could be heard by the match referee, Clive Lloyd, via a stump microphone, and that he should shut up. This he did, but only for a short time.

Sri Lanka were not alone in being cautious in this game. England were just as guilty in selecting an extra batsman ahead of a fifth bowler. Although it helps, Australia do not win Tests just because they have the best players. There is no fear of failure when they walk out on to the field and as a team they play to win. These two teams should take note.


Sri Lanka won toss

SRI LANKA - First Innings 382 (K A D M Fernando 51no; A F Giles 5-116)

ENGLAND - First Innings 294 (G P Thorpe 57, M P Vaughan 52; M Muralitharan 4-60, W P U J C Vaas 4-77)

SRI LANKA - Second Innings 279 for 7 dec (D P M D Jayawardene 52, T M Dilshan 100)

ENGLAND - Second Innings (Overnight: 89 for 2)
M P Vaughan c Dilshan b Muralitharan 105
N Hussain c Sangakkara b Vaas 17
G P Thorpe c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 41
P D Collingwood c Jayawardene b Dharmasena 24
A Flintoff lbw b Muralitharan 19
C M W Read not out 18
G J Batty not out 25
Extras (b5 lb6 nb5) 16
Total (for 7, 140 overs, 530 min) 285

Fall: 1-24 (Trescothick), 2-50 (Butcher), 3-90 (Hussain), 4-167 (Thorpe), 5-208 (Collingwood), 6-233 (Flintoff), 7-239 (Vaughan).

Bowling: Vaas 29-7-59-2 (8-1-21-1, 3-2-4-0, 6-1-10-1, 6-1-16-0, 6-2-8-0); Fernando 7-1-21-0 (6-1-15-0, 1-0-6-0); Dharmasena 26-2-74-1 (8-1-27-0, 5-0-11-0, 2-0-2-0, 9-0-26-1, 2-1-8-0); Muralitharan 56-28-64-4 (6-1-14-1, 15-7-17-0, 8-5-11-1, 7-3-5-0, 12-7-11-2, 8-5-6-0); Jayasuriya 17-2-45-0 (1-0-1-0, 8-1-25-0, 5-0-14-0, 2-0-5-0, 1-1-0-0); Tillekeratne 1-0-1-0; Samaraweera 1-1-0-0; Dilshan 3-1-10-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Fifth day (min 96 overs): 100: 164 min, 41.5 overs. 150: 252 min, 64.5 overs. Lunch: 167 for 3 (Vaughan 81, Thorpe 41) 74 overs. 200: 365 min, 93.1 overs. Tea: 216 for 5 (Vaughan 97, Flintoff 6) 104 overs. New ball taken after 121 overs at 247 for 7, the start of the final hour. 250: 474 min, 122.1 overs. Innings closed 5.37pm.

Vaughan's 50: 123 min, 92 balls, 6 fours. 100: 407 min, 299 balls, 11 fours.


Man of the match: M P Vaughan

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and D J Harper (Aus).

TV replay umpire: P T Manuel

Match referee: C H Lloyd.