Lankan spinners call the shots

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BAMBOOZLED: Geraint Jones is lured to his doom by Muralitharan.
BAMBOOZLED: Geraint Jones is lured to his doom by Muralitharan.

Ted Corbett

Collingwood plays an anchor role

NOTTINGHAM: The guy who has been repairing my roof tells me every day he would be bored if he had my job. "Cricket," he says with the smug air of one who is revealing a great truth, "nothing ever happens. I'd be asleep in five minutes." Not if he had five minutes that changed the course of the third Test at Trent Bridge on Saturday. One minute the England fans were cheering a huge six by Kevin Pietersen and the next reduced to silence as first Pietersen and then Andrew Flintoff fell to spin on a pitch without vice.

Changing the complexion

It changed the whole course of the game as England, 117 for three with Pietersen surging towards another century surely and 118 for five seven balls later, went from lining up a solid first innings lead to the danger of defeat. You had to feel sorry for those who slept through that little episode not least because it taught you everything you need to know about team selection, clever bowling and the value of intelligent field settings.

The day began with England 53 for two and Pietersen clearly in pursuit of a fourth consecutive century and with it victory. For a while he was hesitant while Alastair Cook played fluent strokes until at 24 he was bowled by a 90miles an hour shell from Lasith Malinga's shoulder-borne rocket launcher.

It was not quite the perfect projectile it seemed because Cook only pushed at the ball but with Pietersen beginning to attack, knowing Paul Collingwood would defend, England looked comfortable.

At 111, the England devil's number, Pietersen lofted Muttiah Muralitharan's slower ball into the upper tiers of the Voce and Larwood stand; "slogging with a straight bat," said my friend, the former county captain. Pietersen prodded uncertainly at the next and swept the one afterwards to short fine leg in ambush.

Jayasuriya strikes

It was a key moment but six balls later Andrew Flintoff was caught at slip off Sanath Jayasuriya and those who did not understand the significance of his selection woke up. A middle order all-rounder was Sanath's starting point in Tests and now he was playing his part as much as Murali, wheeling down that innocent looking slow left arm, and allowing Murali to add the mystery at the other end.

After lunch at 139 for five Chaminda Vaas padlocked the batsmen from the city end but of course it was Murali who lured Geraint Jones down the pitch twice in an over and had him stumped on his second foray. Only 21 runs were added in the hour after lunch as Malinga bowled furiously and Murali slower and slower.

Collingwood hoisted one tempting ball for six and Murali offered more temptation; Liam Plunkett dawdled, showing he is not yet able to change the course of a game. England was only 60 adrift yet on a flat pitch it dare not charge.

Jayawardene brought back Jayasuriya in an effort to break the stalemate but at 175 Plunkett was dropped at short leg by Tillekaratne Dilshan off Murali who also had a silly point to snatch rebounds from the forward push.

Slow going

In 20 overs these two Durham lads football country, home of the Charlton brothers, Bryan Robson and Alan Shearer added only 33 runs as they fought to retain England's grip on the Test.

It could not last and at 184 Plunkett, too young for the role he was trying to play, chopped a standard leg break from Jayasuriya on to his stumps. He had made nine off 58 balls. At tea England was 191 for seven, 40 in arrears.

So 17 wickets had fallen in five session for 422 runs on a batting pitch. Whatever happened to the Trent Bridge where Cardus could write the score was always 400 for two? In this match Collingwood has been the top-scorer (48 batting).

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