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Hussain leads England fightback with ninth Test century

KANDY, Sri Lanka, March 8 (AFP) - England captain Nasser Hussain led his team's fightback on the second day of the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka with a superb century here Thursday.

Hussain made 109 with three sixes and 12 fours to leave England trailing by only 48 runs to overhaul Sri Lanka's first innings total of 297.

England finished the day at 249 for five.

With Graham Thorpe who scored a determined 59 in 203 minutes, Hussain put on 167 runs for the third wicket which was a record for England against Sri Lanka for any wicket.

The previous highest was 139 for the second wicket between Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart at Lord's in 1991.

Hussain and Thorpe came together after England resuming at one for no loss had lost openers Michael Atherton (7) and Marcus Trescothick (23) with only 37 runs on the board.

The third wicket pair resurrected the England innings with some positive batting against the spinners.

Hussain in particular was not afraid to use his feet coming down the pitch once too often to hit danger man Muttiah Muralitharan for two sixes, one of which brought up his half-century off 133 balls.

The England captain, who went through a torrid year 2000 with a combination of injuries and bad umpiring decisions, was lucky on this occasion.

He made maximum use of some poor umpiring decisions by Sri Lanka's Bulathsinghalage Cooray who negatived two clear bat-pad chances off Muralitharan to complete his ninth Test century in 280 minutes off 241 balls with 10 fours and three sixes.

It was Hussain's first century for England since he scored an unbeaten 146 against South Africa at Durban in Christmas 1999. He had gone through 21 Test innings crossing the 50 mark only once before Thursday's innings.

Hussain's glee when he reached his century was quite evident as he lifted his arms in the air and pointed his bat at the England dressing room.

He was dropped by Mahela Jayawardene at slip off Sanath Jayasuriya at 109, but finally succumbed to Muralitharan without adding to that score when he attempted a big sweep and was bowled.

Muralitharan, wicketless for 30 overs before he dismissed Hussain, struck again when he trapped Graeme Hick lbw without scoring. Hick had earlier survived a caught-and-bowl chance to Muralitharan which umpire Cooray negatived much to the surprise of the bowler and the fielders.

Thorpe and Hussain deprived Sri Lanka of a wicket by batting out the entire afternoon session. Thorpe completed his 27th Test 50 before being dismissed for 59 when he was caught off bat and pad by Tillekeratne Dilshan off Jayasuriya.

Thorpe batted for 298 minutes and faced 153 balls, hitting six fours.

Alec Stewart and Craig White saw the day through on a pitch offering bounce and turn. Stewart was on 16 after 93 minutes at the wicket and White on six.

The day was marred once again by bad umpiring which almost took the gloss out of Hussain's brilliant innings.

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