Graham Thorpe contributed another crucial innings for England today and prevented Sri Lanka taking a stranglehold on the deciding Test in Colombo.

The Surrey left-hander picked up where he left off in Kandy, when he scored 46 to help England successfully chase a victory target of 161, and finished the second day unbeaten on 71 having guided his side to 175 for four in reply to the Sri Lankans' 241.

Thorpe spearheaded the tourists' fightback by defying Sri Lanka's spinners for over three hours and forged an unbroken 84-run partnership with Michael Vaughan which enabled England to recover from 91 for four.

Their stand regained the initiative after debutant Dinuk Hettiarachchi marked his maiden Test appearance by claiming wickets in successive overs to remove Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain.

England captain Hussain was forced to use Michael Atherton as his runner, and his role was very nearly cut short by an incredible umpire mix-up which earned Hussain an unexpected reprieve.

Hussain appeared to have been the victim of another wrong decision when he edged left-arm spinner Hettiarachchi to Mahela Jayawardene at slip.

Television replays indicated Jayawardene took the catch on the half-volley and umpire Asoka de Silva referred to square-leg colleague Dave Orchard to ask if the catch had been taken cleanly.

Orchard is believed to have advised a referral it third official BC Cooray but was misunderstood and de Silva raised his finger to indicate Hussain's departure.

The England captain stood his ground for a few seconds in disbelief but got a second chance when de Silva suddenly spoke into his walkie-talkie and Cooray revealed what the replay had shown.

Hussain, however, drove Hettiarachchi straight to fellow captain Sanath Jayasuriya at short extra cover in the next over.

Alec Stewart helped Thorpe add 25 in the next nine overs but was bowled by Muttiah Muralitharan.

Atherton and Marcus Trescothick earlier made a solid start with a stand of 45.