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Thorpe and Vaughan lead England fightback with record partnership

COLOMBO, March 16 (AFP) - Graham Thorpe and Michael Vaughan led an England fightback with a fifth wicket partnership of 84 - a record against Sri Lanka - on the second day of the third and final cricket Test here on Friday.

Thorpe was unbeaten on 71, his 28th Test half-century, and Vaughan had laboured to 26 not out in 157 minutes as England ended the day at 175 for four in reply to Sri Lanka's first innings of 241 leaving them 66 runs behind with six wickets in hand.

The pair's stand easily beat the previous record of 40 made by Alec Stewart and Ian Botham at Lord's in 1991.

Left-hander Thorpe and right-hander Vaughan batted throughout the entire final session denying Sri Lanka the chance of a breakthrough.

Thorpe completed his half-century in 130 minutes off 116 balls with six fours and by the close had faced 172 balls and hit eight fours in a stay of 208 minute for his 71

Vaughan gave him solid support hitting two fours in the 126 balls he had faced.

Until Thorpe and Vaughan came together to thwart Sri Lanka, the game looked evenly poised, when England lost four wickets for 46 runs in the afternoon session.

Having gone through unscathed at lunch, England lost Michael Atherton in the second over after the resumption when Chaminda Vaas trapped him lbw for 21 after putting on 45 for the first wicket with Marcus Trescothick.

Trescothick was out for 23 under bizarre circumstances when the ball he hit lodged inside silly mid-on fielder Russel Arnold's shirt to give debutant Dinuk Hettiarachchi his first Test wicket.

Hettiarachchi struck again in the next over, when he had captain Nasser Hussain, who was batting with a runner because of a hamstring strain, mistime a drive to short extra cover.

Hussain, who made eight, had previously benefitted from an umpiring decision for probably the first time in the series.

Hussain edged Hettiarachchi to Mahela Jayawardene at slip and Sri Lanka umpire Asoka de Silva consulted his colleague Dave Orchard of South Africa who confirmed it was out.

However, as Hussain began to walk back to the pavilion there were signals from the England dressing room that the ball had hit the ground before Jayawardene caught it.

De Silva then referred the catch to the third umpire who confirmed that Hussain was not out and revoked his earlier decision.

Stewart quickly followed his successor as captain back to the dressing room when he was bowled by Muttiah Muralitharan for three after he misread a straight delivery.

Earlier England took just 37 minutes to wrap up the Sri Lankan first innings for 241.

Off-spinner Robert Croft picked up his fourth wicket when he dismissed Dilhara Fernando for two.

Darren Gough and Andy Caddick then finished the innings off with the second new ball leaving Chaminda Vaas unbeaten on 19.

The three match series is level at one-all.

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