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CRICKET: ENGLAND CHUCK IN THE TOWEL; Storm over Perera bowling.

Byline: Neil MOXLEY

SRI LANKAN quickie Ruchira Perera was caught in the crossfire of a ''chucking'' row last night.

The 25-year-old's action was highlighted after television cameras appeared to call his delivery into question.

Television pundit and former England all-rounder Dermot Reeve levelled the accusation while commentating for Channel 4.

Sitting alongside former England skipper Mike Atherton, he said after studying several replays: ''I'm sorry Mike, I think this is suspect.''

The ex-England opener voiced his own doubts by questioning whether it was right that any suggestion of legality was only raised once the player had reached Test level.

Left-armer Perera has never been called for no-balling at home - although his action is believed to have been looked at by Sri Lankan officials - and any discrepancies were not reported to the match officials at Lord's yesterday.

An English Cricket Board spokesman confirmed that by close of play, no representation had been made either to the umpires or match referee Gundappa Viswanath.

Perera played a major part in England's downfall at Lord's, taking three wickets as the home side crumbled.

But England batsman John Crawley said that no mention of it had been made in the dressing-room.

He added: ''It's the job of the players to play. It's someone else's job to bring that up. This hasn't been discussed among the England team.'' Perera is a temperamental fast bowler who is appearing in his seventh Test match for his country.

And it's not the first time a Sri Lankan has been called for cheating. The country's leading Test wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan has faced a seemingly never-ending barrage of accusations over his action.

England, meanwhile, face accusations of crass incompetence after a shocking day's cricket. Only the erratic weather can now prevent Sri Lanka recording their first-ever victory at cricket's headquarters.

After chasing leather for two days following some ill-disciplined and wayward bowling, England collapsed in time-honoured fashion.

Falling some 280 runs short of the Sri Lankans' first-innings total, their top-heavy batting order was shot to shreds.

Nasser Hussain's team was labelled as Dad's Army beforehand. Well, Captain Mainwaring's finest stumbled about in confusion at the slightest problem and England did the same, losing their last seven wickets for a measly 72 runs.

They have been shown up throughout this Test match and now it will need a Herculean effort to prevent the tourists from going one-up in the series.

Sri Lanka did not even have to use their most potent weapon. Legendary spinner Murali is not yet match-fit, though he will be for the start of the next Test at Edgbaston.

England's first objective was avoiding the follow-on. After Mark Butcher had departed within half-an-hour of the start, Michael Vaughan's 106-run partnership with Hussain raised hopes.

England's skipper looked in great form. He raced to a half-century, smashing ten fours in the process.

It was the eighth time in nine innings that Hussain had celebrated reaching either 50 or 100.

But he went for 57 just as he was building an innings of real substance, fishing outside his off-stump and leaving Yorkshire opener Vaughan to repair the damage helped by England's class act, Graham Thorpe.

After labouring manfully for four hours, the mistimed pull shot that accounted for Vaughan suggested he had simply lost patience.

When Ruchira Perera trapped Thorpe in front of his stumps with the next ball, Sri Lanka sensed a kill.

After tea, Alec Stewart responded to John Crawley's suicidal call and was run out by a country mile.

Although Crawley partly made amends by becoming the last man out, he ran out of partners. It was shoddy, messy cricket from England.

CAPTION(S):

ACCUSATION: Dermot Reeve
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 19, 2002
Words:609
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