ICL: Indian Cricket League

England lose momentum after strong start


Sri Lanka took 4 for 91 in the final session to give them the advantage on the first day against England in Colombo. The home side’s fortunes swung dramatically in their favour during the final half-hour of the day when Lasith Malinga ended Alastair Cook’s impressive stonewalling on 81 before ripping out Ravi Bopara’s middle stump.

The day was not without controversy, however, with yet more fuel to feed that interminable debate over the use of technology in cricket.

With England in a good position at 171 for 2, Kevin Pietersen edged a wide delivery from Chaminda Vaas to Chamara Silva’s left at second slip. He tumbled forward and flicked the ball up - or appeared to - and it bobbled behind him for Kumar Sangakkara to take the rebound. It was undoubtedly smart fielding to the naked eye, but the umpiring from Daryl Harper and Aleem Dar was perhaps too hasty. The replays around the ground suggested Silva hadn’t got his fingers beneath the ball, but although Pietersen lingered on the outfield for a moment the decision wasn’t overturned.

These things happen, you might say. But with each new controversy, the reasons for not making use of technology appear more lilly-livered and old-fashioned. Common sense must prevail and, most irritatingly of all, it has affected what was an otherwise cracking day’s Test cricket.

It was all England in the first session, dominated by a wonderfully graceful 87 from Michael Vaughan, bringing back wistful memories of his dancing footwork and imperious form in 2002. With a spate of injuries, he has struggled to match those heights but was back to his elegant best today, driving Vaas with power through the covers and pulling the wayward Dilhara Fernando with that branded pick-up-and-pull.

Cook, on the other hand, found the going far trickier, particularly against Vaas who dismissed him twice at Kandy. Vaas led the attack superbly all day, on a surface offering little movement off the seam but enough in the air to cause the occasional blemish from the batsmen. Fernando, who later in the day appeared to be troubled by a slight strain, was the weak link and both Cook and Vaughan capitalised.

After Vaughan reached fifty from 75 balls, the pair registered England’s first century opening stand since Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick against Pakistan at Headingley in 2006. With the pitch playing so flat - and the threat of Muttiah Muralitharan so far contained - England marched to lunch unscathed on 97 very well placed.

Then the wheels came off. Vaughan was all set for his 18th Test hundred before whipping Muralitharan straight into Jehan Mubarak’s thighs at short-leg. Somehow, it stuck, and it was clearly a good omen for Sri Lanka’s bowlers and fielders.

Cook grew in confidence, if never convincing with the same fluency as Vaughan, grafting his way to a gritty fifty. But without Vaughan, England’s innings crawled to a halt with Ian Bell scratching around - oddly, rather nervously, completely belying the supreme form he showed at Kandy. He too fell to the Muralitharan-Mubarak combination when short-leg flung himself high and to his right to pluck a stunning reflex catch. Sri Lanka were back in business.

Pietersen fell to the probing Vaas and the athletic Silva, but worse was to come for England when Cook was rapped on the pads by a fired-up Malinga. It appeared to be missing leg stump, but Harper thought otherwise. Was he ruffled by the crowd’s fury of not referring Pietersen’s wicket? Perhaps, but it was a fair old shocker and opened up the floodgates for England when Bopara was bowled by a reverse-swinging corker.

On such a flat pitch, England will be dismayed at their misfortune; Sri Lanka delighted. If the hosts can limit England to 320 tomorrow, they will be in a terrific position.

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 10th, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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