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GRAHAM THORPE'S first half-century of the series and dogged resistance from the tail helped England close to within 88 runs of Sri Lanka at the Asgiriya Stadium.

Surrey left-hander Thorpe lost three partners during the opening session but remained at the crease for four hours before becoming Muttiah Muralitharan's fourth wicket of the innings.

Having brought up his landmark from 172 deliveries,Thorpe ended a run of seven successive maidens by cutting Muralitharan for four, only to be trapped leg before very next ball by one that turned the other way.

That ended a 51-run stand, forged in 29 overs, with Gareth Batty, who then spent a further hour alongside Ashley Giles.

Hashan Tillekeratne took the second new ball in the 111thover and Giles fell immediately when left-armer Chaminda Vaas slanted the ball across him and Mahela Jayawardene held the catch above the turf at second slip.

Vaas completed his four-wicket haul as Batty, whose 38 was his highest Test score, top edged a pull at Vaas in an attempt for quick runs and was held by Tillekeratne Dilshan, as England were dismissed for 294.

Sri Lankan set off at a rapid pace in their reply, and were 29 without loss before the end of the 11th over.

When England lost Paul Collingwood in the morning session, edging, left arm seamer Vaas behind, they were still six short of making Sri Lanka bat again. And they should have lost Andrew Flintoff when he attempted to force Muralitharan off the back foot and top-edged between the bowler and Dinusha Fernando at midon, with neither fully committed to the catch.

Sri Lankan set off at a rapid pace in their reply, and were 29 without loss before the end of the 11th over.


REARGUARD ACTION: Graham Thorpe guided England to within 100 runs of theSri Lankan total at Kandy this morning
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2003
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