LONDON, Thursday - Sri Lanka were made to pay dearly for giving England first advantage of an excellent Oval batting strip when Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash shared a record third wicket partnership of 128 to put their side on course for a massive first innings total on the first day of the one-off Test here today.
Hick made an unbeaten 107 in 331 minutes with 14 fours, his fifth century in a chequered 49-Test career and Ramprakash, 53, as England ended the day on 228 for four wickets, after being given first choice of a brown pitch by Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga.The pair improved on the previous highest partnership for the fourth wicket of 122 between Robin Smith and Alec Stewart at the SSC in 1992-93.
Hick who scored only nine runs from three Test innings against South Africa found the Sri Lankan bowling more friendlier than the thunderbolts of Allan Donald and Co. He cruised to his century of 198 balls with 13 fours, but lost his partner Ramprakash two balls later, when he swept off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan and holed out to Mahela Jayawardene at mid-wicket.Ramprakash gave Hick solid support batting 174 minutes and facing 149 balls in his half century which comprised four fours.
The pair came together at 81 for 3 when Sri Lanka captured two wickets for three runs in nine balls in the afternoon session.Steve James, playing in only his second Test, hit back a return catch to Muralitharan in the fourth over after lunch, when he failed to get to the pitch of the ball. James made 36 in 132 minutes with three fours.Suresh Perera, making his Test debut at the age of 20, took his maiden wicket when England captain Alec Stewart got an outside edge to a lifting delivery which ended in the hands of Hashan Tillekeratne at first slip.
Stewart made two.Hick, promoted to three and Ramprakash consolidated by taking England to 160 for three at tea. Hick reached his half-century in 162 minutes off 107 balls with seven fours and was batting with increasing confidence. His previous three innings against Sri Lanka on the current tour was 111 for Worcestershire, 86 and 14 for England.
In the morning session, Sri Lanka had little success after sending England in to bat capturing only Mark Butcher's wicket for 10. The England left-hander who averaged 56.33 against South Africa pushed forward to an outswinger from Pramodya Wickremasinghe and edged a straightforward catch to Sanath Jayasuriya at second slip. The brown pitch held no terrors for the England batsmen and looked good for a lot of runs, which made Sri Lanka's decision to send the opposition in rather baffling.
Of the 11 previous occasions Ranatunga had sent the opposition in, he has lost on four occasions and drawn seven times.England were headed for a big total when they went for lunch at 74 for one wicket with Steve James unbeaten on 34 with three fours and Graeme Hick on 26 with four fours.A quarter of an hour before the close, Sri Lanka took the second new ball in the middle of the 87th over, but it made no impression on the batsmen as Hick, now in partnership with John Crawley negotiated it comfortably.
By choosing to play two spinners, Sri Lanka would have been better off batting first, forcing England to bat the fourth innings. But to give England first strike showed a rather negative attitude that Sri Lanka were playing safe by protecting their batsmen from England's three-pronged fast bowling attack of Gough, Fraser and Cork.Sri Lanka deliberated for some time in the middle before opting for the fast off-breaks of Dharmasena ahead of the medium-pace seam of Chandika Hathurusingha and the leg-spin of Upul Chandana.
Dharmasena's bowling eventually proved innocuous on the batting track.England were forced to drop Michael Atherton and draft in Glamorgan opener Steve James, after the former England captain had suffered a recurrence of a back injury yesterday. They were also without batsman Nasser Hussain who pulled out with a groin injury. His place was taken by John Crawley. England decided to go with one spinner - Ian Salisbury with all-rounder Ben Hollioake getting the nod ahead of off-spinner Robert Croft.
Day 2: Muralitharan takes 7-155 but England pile up 445
by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
LONDON, Friday - Muthiah Muralitharan took his 15th five-wicket haul in Test cricket and John Crawley joined Graeme Hick as the second England centurion as both teams wrested hard to gain control of the one-off Test played at the Oval here today.
On the second day, England had moved from their overnight 228 for 4 to 445 all out, their highest total against Sri Lanka beating the previous highest of 429 at Lord's in 1988.
Crawley playing the sheet anchor role was unbeaten on a Test career best score of 156 scored in 325 minutes off 248 balls. He had 19 fours and a six.
England lost three wickets for 23 runs in 50 balls to be reduced from a strong position of 333 for six to 356 for nine, and all that was made possible by Sri Lanka's solitary bowler of Test standard, Muralitharan. Having changed ends for his second spell of the day, after a short rest of only five overs, Muralitharan took three wickets for eight runs off 28 deliveries to set England tumbling.
But last man Angus Fraser provided Crawley, one of the better players of spin bowling in the England side, with solid support to raise a record tenth wicket partnership of 89 in 59 minutes, and see England past the 400-run mark in the 152nd over.
Fraser was finally bowled by Muralitharan for 32 scored off 51 balls with two sixes and three fours and registered his Test career best score. Muralitharan ended up with the excellent figures of 59.3 - 14 - 155 - 7.
The partnership erased the previous highest for the wicket against Sri Lanka of 40 between John Emburey and Devon Malcolm at the SSC grounds in 1992-93 and at 66, became the highest last wicket partnership by a country against Sri Lanka. The previous record was 65 by Pakistani pair Aamir Nazir and Moin Khan at Sialkot in 1995-96.
The partnership also spoilt Muralitharan's figures from 6 for 105 when the ninth wicket fell to 6 for 147 at tea.
All three wickets England lost during the afternoon session were taken by Muralitharan. Dominic Cork was the first, bowled between bat and pad for six after helping Crawley add 56 for the sevnth wicket in 74 minutes. Ian Salisbury followed soon after in similar fashion bowled leg stump for two, and Darren Gough went for four caught off his pads sweeping.
Sri Lanka picked up the big wicket of first day century-maker Graeme Hick, without adding to his overnight total of 107, and close upon lunch, Ben Hollioake holed out to Muralitharan at mid-on when he tried to break away from the shackles imposed on him by the spinner.
England went to lunch at 286 for six wickets with John Crawley, the last of the recognised batsmen undefeated on 51. He reached his sixth Test half century shortly before lunch with a sweep off Muralitharan to long leg, batting for 159 minutes and facing 124 balls. He had eight fours.
England's progress was rather slow against a Sri Lankan bowling attack considered rather mediocre by Test standards. In the two hour morning session during which period Sri Lanka bowled 28 overs, England added only 58 runs for the loss of the two wickets.
The manner in which both sides got about their cricket, it seemed that neither side was interested in forcing a winning decision in this Test.
England with a long tail, were extra cautious as they tried to build up a big first innings total, and their approach suited the Sri Lankans, who have to some extent crawled back into the game, by taking six wickets and making England work hard for every run.
With the second new ball only four overs old, Wickremasinghe struck early in the morning when in the fourth over, he had Hick driving and getting a faint outside edge to Romesh Kaluwitharana. Hick lasted only eight balls today.
Hollioake who replaced him hung around for 89 minutes for 14 runs, before lofting Muralitharan to mid-on to end a 47-run stand for the sixth wicket with Crawley. Both batsmen were playing for a place on the winter tour to Australia and it looked as if personal performances overruled everything else, the way they went about in the morning.
Wickremasinghe bowled a fine morning spell of nine overs for 15 runs and the wicket of Hick, and Muralitharan, as has become customary sent down the bulk of overs, and at lunch had figures of three for 84 off 42.
Sri Lanka got some stick from the English press the way threw away a good opporunity of putting up a good total on a batting track after they won the toss yesterday.
The Daily Telegraph headline read: ``Sri Lanka suprisingly spurn chance to bat first and pay the price''.
``England has been given first use of a blameless brown pitch by a Sri Lankan captain of vast experience who really should have known better.
Had the weather been damp or dull it might have been different but for a side whose strength lies in batting and spin bowling, Arjuna Ranatunga's decision made no sense whatsoever,'' wrote Christopher Martin-Jenkins in the 'Daily Telegraph' 'The Times' under the headline: ``England gratefully accept Sri Lanka's surprise invitation to bat first'' said:
``If Graeme Hick tours Australia this winter - as he now assuredly will - and manages to make a success of it, Arjuna Ranatunga should feature high on his list of acknowledgements. Once the Sri Lanka captain had taken the extraordinary decision to put England into bat at the Oval yesterday, nothing was more inevitable that Hick would capitalise''.
Sri Lanka manager Ranjit Fernando was quoted telling the 'Daily Telegraph' that it was decision taken by senior players and management.
``They probably thought there was a bit of juice and a tinge of green in the pitch. It hasn't quite worked that way out, but we have the new ball first thing,'' Fernando was quoted.
Day 3: Sanath Jayasuriya reserves his best for the last
Enters record books with a double century to set stage for a massive reply to England's 445
LONDON, August 29 - Sanath Jayasuriya reserved his best innings of the tour for the last, when after a barren run of 11 Tests he re-entered the record books with a big hundred - a double century to set the stage for a massive reply to England's 445 at the Oval here today.
Jayasuriya made a chanceless 213 in 346 minutes, his fifth hundred in Test cricket and shared a record-breaking partnership of 243 runs with vice-captain Aravinda de Silva, which was Sri Lanka's highest against any country in Test cricket.
De Silva also joined the run parade, by completing his 17th Test century on a day when Sri Lanka's batsmen took complete dominance over the England bowling on a placid surface.
Having begun the day at 79 for one, Sri Lanka finished the third day strongly placed at 446 for three wickets with De Silva unbeaten on 125 and captain Arjuna Ranatunga on 50. With two days remaining in the Test, Sri Lanka find themselves in a position to put England under pressure, and force a victory if they can get a substantial first innings lead by tea tomorrow, and allow master spinner Muthiah Muralitharan to exploit a worn pitch.
On an unresponsive wicket, Muralitharan took seven wickets in the England first innings, and needs only a further six wickets to become the first Sri Lankan bowler to take 200 Test wickets.
In comparison to England's tedious progress when they averaged 2.8 runs an over, Sri Lanka with a brilliant array of stroke-makers scored freely at more than four an over, which was entertaining stuff for the Saturday crowd.
Not since their first appearance in a Test in England at Lord's in 1984, had Sri Lanka's batting looked so domineering. On that occasion Sidath Wettimuny (190) and Duleep Mendis (111) combined to give them their highest total in a Test in England - 491 for 7 declared. Even that looks like being taken off the record books.
Following the early loss of Mahela Jayawardene for nine, in the sixth over of the morning, Jayasuriya and De Silva took hold of the England bowling by the scruff of the neck to put on a double century stand (243 runs off 327 balls) that knocked the wind out of their sails.
Jayasuriya was the dominant partner in the liaison. He reached his 150 in a grand manner flicking Dominic Cork off his legs to long leg for a six. At that stage he had batted 258 minutes and faced 212 balls and hit 24 fours. When he finally fell for 213 edging a pull shot off Ben Hollioake to wicket-keeper Alec Stewart, the left-hander had lifted his boundary tally to 33 fours and a six off 278 balls. While Jayasuriya waded into the England bowling de Silva played a passsive role, his share being 72 in the massive partnership.
Jayasuriya's double hundred more than compensated for all his failures on the current tour. It was his first century since scoring 199 against India at the SSC last year.
If England thought they could achieve a breakthrough at this stage, they were mistaken. They took the second new ball immediately, but Ranatunga with the assistance of de Silva, who had now moved to 72 having completed his fifty in 163 minutes with eight fours - survived the storm calmly, to add 118 for the fourth wicket in an unfinished partnership.
At 23, De Silva became the first Sri Lankan batsman and the 42nd overall, to pass 5,000 runs in Test cricket reaching the mark in his 74th Test (128 innings) when he on drove Cork for two to mid wicket. Cork received an official warning from umpire David Shepherd in that over for running on to the danger area.
Ranatunga completed England's misery for the day when he reached his half-century shortly before the close, batting for 123 minutes and hitting seven fours and a six of 84 balls. It was his 33rd fifty in Test cricket.
Sri Lanka passed England's total in the 108th over (England's innings had lasted 158.3 overs) underlining the pace at which they scored throughout the day. Sri Lanka scored 367 runs off 90 overs during the day.
Test Double Centurions for Sri Lanka
340 - S.T. Jayasuriya, v India (R. Premadasa Stadium) 1997-98
267 - P.A. de Silva, v New Zealand (Wellington) 1990-91
225 - R.S. Mahanama, v India (R. Premadasa Stadium) 1997-98
223 - M.S. Atapattu, v Zimbabwe (Kandy) 1997-98
213 - S.T. Jayasuriya, v England (Oval) 1998
201*- D.S.B.P. Kuruppu, v New Zealand (CCC) 1986-87
Dominic Cork of England and Suresh Perera of Sri Lanka were timed as delivering the fastest balls during the first three days of the one-off Test being played at the Oval. Cork's quickest delivery was timed at 88 mph and Perera's, at 84 mph.
The highest average speeds for both sides was, 80 by Darren Gough of England and 78 by Perera.
The comparative average speeds of other bowlers:
Pramodya Wickremasinghe (78 mph), Kumara Dharmasena and Sanath Jayasuriya (54 mph each), and Muthiah Muralitharan (49 mph) for Sri Lanka, and Cork and Ben Hollioake (80 mph), Angus Fraser (77 mph) and Mark Ramprakash (52 mph).
Day 4: England in dire straits
Sri Lanka made their second highest total in Test cricket after their world record of 952 for six declared against India last year, when they were dismissed for 591 on the fourth day of the one-off Test against England at the Oval here today.
It was also Sri Lanka's highest ever Test total abroad improving on the 497 for nine declared against New Zealand at Wellington in 1990-91. On that occasion, Aravinda de Silva made his highest Test score of 267. But today, the Sri Lankan vice-captain's contribution was 152, which along with Sanath Jayasuriya's double century on the third day, gave Sri Lanka a handy first innings lead of 146.
England with 41 overs to play for the rest of the fourth day, had used seven of them to be 13 without loss at tea.Following the run glut of the third day, the fourth morning turned out to be a sober one, with England crawling back into the game by grabbing some cheap Sri Lankan wickets.
Resuming at their overnight total of 446 for three, Sri Lanka lost six wickets for 86 runs, before Test debutant Suresh Perera and Muthiah Muralitharan forged a last wicket partnership of 59 in under an hour to vent further frustration on the England bowlers.
The game at this stage seems destined for a draw, unless Sri Lanka can gain a substantial lead on the first innings and then see how the England batsmen tackle Muralitharan's off-spin on a slow turning pitch.
Darren Gough bowling a fuller length than the previous day, found success off consecutive deliveries of his second over of the morning to be on a hat-trick. Arjuna Ranatunga shuffling across was trapped right in front of the wicket after adding one run to his overnight score of 50, and Hashan Tillekeratne was out in similar fashion when he received a superb first delivery which hit him full and low on the front pad in line with the middle stump.
Romesh Kaluwitharna nearly edged the hat-trick ball, and survived to help de Silva add 38 for the sixth wicket. He was out driving uppishly to extra cover with his score on 25.
When de Silva gloriously cover drove Ben Hollioake for four in the 127th over, Sri Lanka passed their previous highest total in a Test against England - 491 for 7 declared at Lord's in 1984.Shortly afterwards, De Silva reached his fourth score of over 150 in a Test in 457 minutes off 287 balls with 17 fours. He lost his momentum at 146 when he collided with Dominic Cork while running a single and hurt his right ankle. Although he didn't call for a runner, De Silva was soon on his way to the pavilion getting a faint edge to wicket-keeper Alec Stewart off a well-pitched up delivery from Hollioake. By then Sri Lanka had passed the 500-run mark for the third time in Test cricket.
Kumara Dharmasena and Pramodya Wickremasinghe both fell victim to Angus Fraser to reduce Sri Lanka to 532 for 9, but Perera and Muralitharan batted superbly to come within five runs of the last wicket record partnership against England. Leg-spinner Ian Salisbury, whose bowling hardly resembled Test class, ended the stand when he had Muralitharan caught behind by Stewart attempting to cut a wide ball. Muralitharan made 30 off 36 balls with five fours, and Perera, whose best shot of his 77-ball innings was a straight drive off Fraser for six, was unbeaten on 43 having also hit six fours.
Sri Lanka scored 72 runs off 28 overs in the morning session which was easily the least productive of their innings.