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Cricket: Double blow hits England's hopes; - but Pietersen stands firmin battle to avoid defeat.

Byline: By RICHARD GIBSON

TWO wickets in the first hour of the afternoon session gave England a jolt in their bid to save the second Test in Colombo.

England lost Alastair Cook to the first ball after lunch, and Ian Bell was out caught at long-on to leave the tourists seven runs ahead with seven wickets in hand.

However, Kevin Pietersen (45no) and Paul Collingwood (17no) helped to steady the ship as England progressed to 244-3.

All of England's top three made half-centuries - but once again none of them turned starts into hundreds.

Captain Michael Vaughan followed his first innings 87 by hitting 61 before chipping back a return catch to Dilhara Fernando.

He shared a century stand with Cook - the first time an English opening pair have managed two in a Test since Geoff Boycott and John Edrich against Australia in 1970-71.

Their efforts meant England - who resumed on 48 without loss, requiring 197 to make the Sri Lankans bat again - were in credit in mid-afternoon.

Vaughan tucked regular boundaries off Lasith Malinga first thing this morning and reached his landmark off 81 deliveries.

The tourists were clearly intent on a positive approach to staving off defeat, Cook hooking the first ball of the day from Malinga confidently to long leg.

He then twice drilled Chaminda Vaas through the covers for four as Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene rotated his attack in search of a breakthrough.

Fernando provided it when, having already induced a false stroke from Vaughan with a slower ball which lobbed over mid-off for four, another subtle variation in pace accounted for the England captain.

Essex's Cook brought up his 50 shortly after a 20-minute stoppage for rain, and Bell began with some confident strokes.

Leg-spinner Chamara Silva gained the second breakthrough after the interval when he found the outside edge of Cook's bat.

Sri Lanka v England

Colombo

Overnight: Sri Lanka 548-9 dec (D P M D Jayawardene 195, M G Vandort 138, H A P W Jayawardene 79).

England 351 (M P Vaughan 87, A N Cook 81, M JPrior 79, P D Collingwood 52; M Muralitharan 5-116) and 48-0

England Second Innings

Cook c Jayawardene b Silva 62

Vaughanc & b Fernando 61

Bell c Vandort b Muralitharan 54

Pietersen not out 45

Collingwood not out 17

Extras 5

Total 3 wkts (76 overs) 244

Fall: 1-107 2-152 3-204

Bowling: Vaas: 16-2-56-0. Malinga: 8-1-37-0. Fernando: 10-0- 30-1. Mubarak: 1-0-8-0. Muralitharan: 27-5-58-1. D P M D Jayawardene: 2-1-4-0. L P C Silva: 12-1-51-1.

Umpires: Aleem Dar and D J Harper

CAPTION(S):

ALL SMILES: England's Alastair Cook and Michael Vaughan share a joke in the middle as Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene walks past
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 13, 2007
Words:449
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