ICL: Indian Cricket League

Sangakkara century sets up victory chance


After Muttiah Muralitharan enjoyed his record-breaking moment yesterday it was the turn of Kumar Sangakkara to do the rewriting as Sri Lanka finally exerted their home advantage on the fourth day at Kandy. Sangakkara’s graceful 152 made him the first player to reach 150 in four consecutive Tests to set England 350 for victory. That, too, would be a record - England’s highest successful run chase - and the most remarkable of the match, especially after Alastair Cook fell before the close.

This won’t be a match Cook remembers with any fondness; a duck in the first innings, a painful blow on his eye in the field and now undone by the wiles of Chaminda Vaas for a second time. He escaped a pair with a first-ball flick to fine-leg, but his hard hands in defence were a gift to Vaas who nipped the fourth ball away and Chamara Silva completed the formalities at second slip. Muralitharan had one over before the light faded; expect him to book one end for the rest of the innings.

It has shown over the last few days that Sangakkara is one of the few Sri Lanka players to have returned from Australia without any scars. While his team-mates, with the honourable exception of Murali, made a slow start to this series Sangakkara has continued to confirm himself at the top of the world game. The official rankings currently have him at No.3, but that may change very soon. His current form exceeds Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis, the two men above him.

Sangakkara’s hundred was his fourth in six innings (or sixth in 10) and completed a full set against all Test nations, the second Sri Lankan to achieve that feat after Marvan Atapattu. It nearly didn’t happen, Ian Bell continuing his inconsistent form at slip when he dropped a simple edge with Sangakkara on 98. Ryan Sidebottom kicked the turf in frustration and Bell could barely look him in the eye. For a few moments Sangakkara lost his elegance as he tried to tick off the last few runs. Normality was resumed when he reached three figures in convincing style by lofting the expensive James Anderson over cover for his 14th boundary. He was also the first Sri Lanka batsman to make six consecutive scores over fifty.

Sangakkara’s driving through the off side was textbook, including a particularly memorable shimmy down the pitch to send Monty Panesar through the covers two balls after watching one spit out of the rough. Even when Michael Vaughan tried to block the gap at extra cover he threaded it with laser-guided precision. England’s shoulders began to slump, not only with Bell’s drop but also the ground fielding which became slightly ragged. Sangakkara finally chipped a catch to midwicket off Paul Collingwood during a smart eight-over spell after tea. Collingwood and Ravi Bopara’s medium pace proved most effective at slowing the rate, but by then it was only a matter of containment.

The match had taken a decisive shift when Sangakkara added 122, the highest partnership of the match, with Mahela Jayawardene as the pair produced perfect subcontinental batsmanship. Jayawardene played effortlessly for his 65, smartly working the gaps, before being strangled down the leg side off the first ball of Matthew Hoggard’s second spell. England began the morning knowing a flurry of wickets would keep their prospects very much alive, however after the first session brought a lone breakthrough they were soon in a position that became familiar to them on their last tour to Sri Lanka in 2003-04. England’s cause wasn’t helped when Hoggard hobbled off the field for treatment on his back during the afternoon session.

Panesar had to wait an hour for his first bowl while England tried to utilise reverse swing, a plan negated by the slowness of the surface and an early stream of boundaries against the quick bowlers handed Sri Lanka the momentum. The new ball, taken straight after lunch, again increased the scoring rate as Sangakkara and Silva enjoyed the extra pace. Silva played his shots during at 48-ball 37, then became Panesar’s first scalp of the innings when Asad Rauf ruled the ball hit pad before bat. The fourth-wicket stand added 71 in 15 overs as Sri Lanka motored towards a position for an evening declaration.

Jehan Mubarak escaped a pair when he lofted Panesar straight before falling to a catch at long-on attempting a repeat and after tea Sri Lanka batted on longer than many thought necessary, especially with bad light curtailing each day’s play. There is still plenty of time for Muralitharan to complete the victory, but the last time these two teams met on this ground England survived 140 overs for the draw with Vaughan making 105. A repeat performance is needed to stop Sri Lanka taking a series lead.

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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