CRICKET: Murali Caper Riles Thorpe

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Byline: Richard Gibson

Graham Thorpe yesterday expressed his surprise at Muttiah Muralitharan's tell-tale antics which earned Nasser Hussain a trip to the headmaster's office during the second Test match here.

Thorpe, whose defiant 57 kept the Sri Lankans at bay for four hours yesterday, stood shoulderto-shoulder in support of former captain Hussain, who faced unproved accusations that he called spinner Murali 'a cheat' and 'a chucker' during the second day's play on Thursday.

Unable to find solid evidence against Hussain during a specially-convened hearing, which might have led to a fine and-or one-match Test ban, International Cricket Council match referee Clive Lloyd warned both teams about their future on-field behaviour. He also instructed the stump microphones, which proved inconclusive, to be turned up to maximum capacity for yesterday's third day.

Facing trial by television, the two teams ensured that things passed peacefully at the Asgiriya Stadium as Sri Lanka closed on 39 for one in their second innings, 127 runs ahead, when the batsmen accepted an offer of bad light with ten overs remaining, thus causing today's play to be correspondingly extended.

Surrey batsman Thorpe implied that Muralitharan had broken an unwritten on-field rule in 'grassing' Hussain to umpire Aleem Dar when he walked out to bat.

He said: 'Not too many of us tell tales out of school, that surprised me. You don't need to do that, as cricketers we understand you will take a little bit from time to time.

'I can understand trying to clean the game up and sometimes you might push it a little bit too far but generally most players know where the lines are and you don't have to run off and tell people about it.

'There are quite a few of us who have taken stick off certain cricket teams over the years and we kept our mouths shut about it. It is like trying to get players sent off in football; waving your hands at the referee telling him it's a yellow or red card.

'You don't need to do it, that's not sportsmanship in my view.' The previous series here three winters ago, which England won 2-1 under Hussain's leadership, was blighted by bad blood between the teams as excessive appealing, chirruping by fieldsmen around the bat and heated confrontations became prevalent. Thorpe, dismissed leg-before to be the final of Murali's four wickets half-an-hour after lunch, added: 'With the competitive nature against Sri Lanka we have come to expect a little bit from each other and most of the time it is in the right spirit.

'A little bit of chat has gone on for years, it's no big deal, and it is always important that the players know where the line is, so you are allowed to play the game hard and fair and there is a little bit of gamesmanship, otherwise it would be boring out there.'

The nearest the teams came to conflict was deep into the evening session when Sanath Jayasuriya drove Andrew Flintoff for four before brushing shoulders with the England bowler, although the Sri Lankan opener apologised immediately. …