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18th February 2001
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England batsman Graham Thorpe plays a drive which was 
caught back by bowler Niroshan Bandaratilleke (not in picture) 
after making 57 runs on the third day of their four-day match 
against Sri Lanka Board President XI in Matara, yesterday. 
Wicket keeper Tillakaratne Dilshan looks on. 
Reuters 

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Boost for England

Channaka de Silva reporting from Matara
Allrounder Craig White stroked a superb unbeaten 85 as England made the maximum of their final opportunity to gain batting practice before next week's first Test, piling up a mammoth 418 for seven by stumps on the third day of their four-day match against the SriLanka Board XI here yesterday.

White mixed caution with aggression facing spinners and pacemen alike with confidence and made runs all round the wicket to give a tremendous boost for England's morale.

England who resumed the day on 174 for 2, lost three wickets in the first session to be 274 for 5 at lunch.

Opener Michael Atherton, who was absolutely solid on day two, was the first to go yesterday, when he was clean bowled by medium paceman Dinusha Fernando in the fifth over of the morning. Incidentally it was the third time in three innings that Fernando shattered the stumps of the former England captain, having dismissed him in similar fashion in both innings of England's tour opener against the Colts XI at Moratuwa two weeks ago.

Atherton who played in his usual sedate manner, made 85 hitting five boundaries in his 211 ball stay, which spanned for four and a half hours.

Atherton and Graeme Thorpe by then had added 98 runs for the third wicket in 27 overs bringing the total up to 191.

Ten overs later left hander Thorpe departed when left arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratilleka held a waist high chance off a full blooded drive. Thorpe made 57 in140 balls with three boundaries.

Another ten overs later, Hashan Tillekeratne at silly point, pulled off a diving catch off a bat pad chance to off spinner Muthumudalige Pushpakumara to end Michael Vaughn's brief innings for 12.

Wicket-keeper batsman Alec Stewart was shaping up well on 28 while White hit one six off 26 balls to make 18 by the lunch break.

White who came to the wicket with the total on 147 for 5 shared three excellent partnerships, first with wicket-keeper batsman Alec Stewart for the sixth wicket adding 63, then 32 for the seventh wicket with Ashley Giles and another unbroken 76 for the eighth with tail-ender Robert Croft. White had batted for four hours and 43 minutes facing 229 balls, hitting two sixes and six fours.

Stewart made 40 in a three hour stay while Croft scored 30 not out in a two-hour knock which only highlighted the lack of penetration of the local bowlers.

None of them looked impressive enough to earn a Test call though spinners Niroshan Bandaratilleke, Muthumudalige Push-pakumara and Malinga Bandara grabbed two wickets each.
Scoreboard{tc "Scoreboard"} Sri Lanka Board President's XI - 253 (Jeevan Kulatunga 54, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara 52, Niroshan Bandaratilleke 73) England First Innings (174 for 2 overnight) Michael Atherton b Fernando 85 (Back foot push, through gate) - 4X4, 195 b, 245 m) Marcus Trescothick c Pushpakumara b Bandaratilleke 38 (On drive, caught at mid on) 4X3, 6X1, 83 b, 245 m) Nasser Hussain c Fernando b Pushpakumara 7 (Lofted drive, caught at mid on) 4X1, 246, 24 m) Graeme Thorpe c & b Bandaratilleke 57 (Stepped out, full blooded drive,caught low) 4X3, 140 b, 179 m) Alec Stewart b Bandara 40 (Back foot defence, ball skidded through) 4X1, 143 b, 184 m) Michael Vaughn c Tillekeratne b Pushpakumara 12 (Forward defence, caught bat-pad at silly point) 30 b, 37 m) Craig White not out 85 (229 b, 283 m, 4X6, 6X2) Ashley Giles c Bandaratilleka b Bandara 17 (Defence through gate) 4X1, 44 b, 67m) Robert Croft not out 30 (80 b, 123 m) Extras: (b-11, 1b-10, nb-26) Total: (For 7 wkts at stumps, 160 overs, 647 mts) 418 Fall: 1-68 (Trescothick, 22.4 ov), 2-93 (Hussain, 35.3 ov), 3-191 (Atherton, 68 ov), 4-226 (Thorpe 78.2 ov), 5-247 (Vaughn 88.1 ov), 6-310 (Stewart, 115.1 ov), 7-342 (Giles, 133.5 ov) Bowling: Ruchira Perera 17-1-76-0 (15 nb); Dinusha Fernando 14-1-59-1 (4 nb); Niroshan Bandaratilleke 51-11-117-2 (1 nb); Muthumudalige Pushpakumara 31-7-69-2; Malinga Bandara 47-21-76-2 (6 nb)


Kontouri expresses confidence 

By Marlon Fernandopulle
Sri Lanka Physio Alex Kontouri is confident that ace spinner Muttaih Muralitharan will recover from his niggling groin injury and be fit for the First Test against England on Thursday.

As the Sri Lanka team began their preparations for the England tour yesterday (after the 3 months tour of South Africa and New Zealand) with a Physical Training Session at the Gymnasium, Kontouri was busy attending to the injuries of players concentrating mainly on Murali who is expected to hold the key in the fortcoming series. 

"I have been working with Murali twice a day and he has been responding very well. 

He is getting better and better every day and is even moving about quite freely now," he said. 

When asked about Murali's chances of playing in the test on Thursday, Kontouri said, I am confident that he should be fit for the game on Thursday. In fact Murali himself is confident of playing.However I need to wait until Murali starts bowling at the nets tomorrow or on Tuesday to be 100% certain" 

In his last test against the Englishman Murali captured a record breaking 16 wickets as Sri Lanka romped to victory. Since then Murali has gone past the 300 wicket mark and is keen to add on to his tally. 

Murali injured his right groin during the last One dayer against New Zealand last Sunday.According to Kontouri the injury is caused due to the turning and twisting of the leg.During the last few days Kontouri has been attending to the spinner prescribing a carefully drawn out physical training session in a bid to strengthen his groin. 

Sri Lanka's opening bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa who were also carrying injuries have recovered fully and are expected to be at full strength for the first Test on Thursday.


Murali's absence, the deciding factor?

By Aubrey Kuruppu
Muralitharan's 16 for 220 takes pride of place among the memories that linger when talking about test cricket between the one-time rulers (England) and the ruled (Ceylon/Sri Lanka).

Delving into the earlier tests, one recalls the exploits of Madugalle and chubby, fresh faced youngster Ranatunga and of Gower, Tavare and Emburey in the inaugural match in February 1982.

1984 saw Lords set ablaze by the brilliant "Lord Sid" who produced an exhibition of stroke play that has seldom been seen. Duleep Mendis missed out on twin centuries while a slightly older Ranatunga entered the eighties. The irrepressible Ian Botham excelled in a new role as off spinner, but it was Allan Lamb who saved English blushes with another century. (This came on top of the three hundreds he had already made that summer against the might of Clive Lloyd's four-pronged pace menace).

By 1988, Gooch had just been handed the reins after a disastrous black-wash against the men from the Caribbean. Sri Lanka collapsed badly in their first innings - the only salvation being an entertaining last wicket stand of substantial proportions between Ravi Ratnayake and Graeme Labrooy. England found an unlikely hero in the night - watchman who took root (Jack Russell) and, inevitably, Lamb, struck a rich vein of runs. Dark clouds hovered overhead at lunch on the final day, raising speculation that the visitors would be given a last minute reprieve. However, the gloom lifted, and Robin Smith duly struck the second ball of the post-lunch session to the boundary to seal the win.

Aravinda was at the helm when the Sri Lankans had their next tilt with the Englishmen. Let off early, Stewart grasped the opportunity with both hands to proceed to an unfussy hundred. Sanath batting in the middle order made hay while his team slid to defeat. Aravinda's belligerent and pugnacious forty odd was much admired.

The Englishmen had condescended to play another test in Sri Lanka and this led to disastrous consequences. Robin Smith, opening the batting, contributed a solid ton and Graeme Hick a classy eighty plus. Yet the wizardry of Muralitharan ensured that the visitors bit the dust. Jayasuriya was in at the finish, pulling Tuffnel for six to end the match.

Jayasuriya's blistering 213 at the Foster's Oval in London in 1998 was out of this world. Aravinda crafted a quality hundred. Hick and John Crawley, both contesting one place in the English squad for Australia, churned out contrasting centuries. But Muralitharan outshone them all to conjure Sri Lanka's first Test victory on English soil.

The first-ever three test series is about to commence at the Galle International Stadium which holds mixed fortune for the Sri Lankans. The Pakistanis walked all over the local side but Jayasuriya's men picked themselves up off the floor and registered a win over the South Africans. Need it be said that off spin contributed in large measure to that win, though centuries by the skipper and by Jayawardena also helped.

Muralitharan's injury casts a big doubt over our chances. The simple fact is that there isn't another worthy spinner in sight. Since his entry to the national side, he has invariably taken a high percentage of the wickets that Sri Lankan bowler have taken. In his absence in South Africa, Pollock went berserk. His record against Muralitharan wasn't all that impressive.

Most of Sri Lankan's batsmen pick themselves. The one remaining slot puts the selectors on the horns of a dilemma. Should they opt for the experience of de Silva or go for the aggressive shot-maker Dilshan who is currently in good nick. Hashan Tillekeratne could enter into the calculations with a superlative, last-gasp effort at Matara.

If, as is usually the case, the track begins to turn early on, a fit Murali could continue to bemuse and bewitch the batsmen. If he's a non-starter, we could be up against it. Vaas and Zoysa would have been rendered hors de combat and Dilhara twiddling his thumbs, waiting for the preparation of faster, bouncier tracks. 

England, too, has a selection problem. Should the enigmatic Hick who had a very lean time in Pakistan be persevered with? In the alternative, the hard-to-dig-out Michael Vaughan who bowls a better off break could get the nod. Hick did get a hundred off the Sri Lankan attack last time out and he could just get the nod. Whatever the nature of the track, the visitors seem inclined to go in with three pacemen - Gough, Caddick and White. The last named has utility value as a batsman, too. He is quick through the air and coming from Yorkshire, he should be the possessor of grit and determination, if not of the loquacity of Fred Truman.

To sum up, Sri Lanka would have the decisive edge if the master spinner turns up to roll his arm over. The Englishmen would receive a tremendous boost to their morale if the spin attack has lost its cutting edge. 

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