England on the brink of victory in first Test

Published: Monday, May 15, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:England remained on course for victory in the first Test against Sri Lanka after the tourists, following-on, were 429 for eight at lunch on the fifth day at Lord's, a lead of 70 runs.

But after rain, which had delayed the final day's start by 20 minutes, had forced an early interval, there was still a chance the weather might have the final say in the opening match of this three-Test series.

Chaminda Vaas was 10 not out and Nuwan Kulasekara unbeaten on nought here on Monday with only key off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who could yet derail England's victory bid with the ball, left to bat.

Sri Lanka resumed on 381 for six in reply to England's first innings 551 for six declared. Tillakaratne Dilshan was 39 not out and Chamara Kapugedera unbeaten on five.

England, who'd dropped slip catches on Sunday, put down another in Monday's third over when debutant Kapugedera, still on his overnight score, edged Matthew Hoggard.

England captain Andrew Flintoff, coming across Marcus Trescothick at first slip, floored the chance despite getting both hands to the ball.

Fortunately for England, Kapugedera did not make the most of his reprieve. On 10 he top-edged an intended hook off paceman Flintoff and wicket-keeper Geraint Jones made no mistake as the ball lobbed into his gloves.

Then England at last held a slip catch when Dilshan, on 69, edged fast bowler Liam Plunkett to Trescothick.

It was a deserved wicket for the Durham quick, making his home Test debut, after he'd repeatedly beaten the bat.

Dilshan batted for just over three hours, facing 145 balls with 14 fours.

England, late on Sunday, had finally seen the back of Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene for 119 when he was caught down the legside by Jones off Flintoff although replays suggested the ball may have missed his gloves.

For over six hours Jayawardene defied England with an innings of 119, his 14th Test century and second at Lord's, having top-scored with 61 in his side's meagre first innings 192.

But things might have been worse for Sri Lanka, and far better for England, if Andrew Strauss had not dropped a routine slip chance offered by Jayawardene when the 28-year-old right-hander had made just 58.

Sri Lanka had been caught cold in their first innings with swing specialist Hoggard becoming the tenth Englishman to take 200 Test wickets, on his way to figures of four for 27, and debutant quick Sajid Mahmood three for 50.

On Friday, England completed their highest total against Sri Lanka after hundreds from Kevin Pietersen (158) and Trescothick (106).

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