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Last Updated: Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:05 GMT
Clarke leads England A to victory
A Team Triangular Series, Colombo
England A 252-5 beat Sri Lanka A 248-8 by five wickets

Rikki Clarke
Clarke arrived at the crease with victory unlikely

Rikki Clarke was the hero as England A beat Sri Lanka A by five wickets after a stirring run chase in Colombo.

Surrey all-rounder Clarke struck an unbeaten 44 off just 27 balls in a stand with Alex Gidman (29 not out) that was worth 62 off just 39 balls.

That powered Ian Bell's side to victory with seven balls remaining, which looked a distant prospect when the two batsmen joined forces in the 43rd over.

Russel Arnold's 71 had given the Sri Lankans a 50-over total of 248-8.

He and Malintha Gajanayake came together when the hosts had been 84-3 in the 21st over and were able to accelerate the scoring rate enough to give England a tough chase.

Clarkey and Giddo played fantastically well
Ian Bell
England captain

Arnold, a former stalwart of Sri Lanka's Test side, hit 71 off 80 balls, while Gajanayake contributed 51.

Malinga Bandara then thumped 24 off 18 balls before being run out late on.

Jon Lewis was the pick of the bowlers, with 2-32 in his 10 overs, while Clarke also proved economical.

Monday's contest was England A's first match in a triangular series also featuring the second-string Pakistan side.

Bell lost the toss and bowled just two overs in the Sri Lanka A innings, but was soon marshalling the run chase after a clatter of early wickets.

Left-arm seamers Gayan Ramyakumara and Nandika Ranjith had England 28-3 after six overs.

Russel Arnold
Arnold had given Sri Lanka A a decent total to defend

Vikram Solanki and Graeme Swann fell for single-figure scores and Matt Prior made just 21.

Bell and Owais Shah restored the balance with a partnership of 127 but it took more than 40 overs and pushed the required run rate up to seven an over.

Then Bell fell lbw to the leg-spin of Bandara for 72 before Shah was forced to retire hurt for 63.

But just as the hosts looked poised for success, Clarke and Gidman thrashed one boundary after another in a performance which is sure to boost confidence levels for the rest of the series.

After the match, Bell said: "It was a nice team performance.

"I would have liked to have kept them to 225 or 230 but they had a couple of good last overs and we probable weren't 100% on the button there.

"Clarkey and Giddo played fantastically well. They cashed in on a couple of length balls and put them away.

"That was what we needed to do to put the pressure back on Sri Lanka."

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