Day one May 14, 2011
Andrew Strauss’s last innings was the World Cup quarter-final againstSri Lankaand seven weeks on from that poor display inColombohe returned to the middle with a breezy 151 against the same opposition as the visitors began their tour. It was a tough introduction for a team lacking five players still at the IPL and the early evidence proved that the bowling attack will struggle as Middlesex closed on 321 for 5.
Strauss, now with the sole focus of makingEnglandthe No. 1 Test team after the three-way captaincy split, has a maximum of four first-class innings before the first Test inCardiffon May 26. Although he’s been around long enough to mean a few low scores wouldn’t be the end of the world any batsman feels better with a hundred under their belt.
He certainly didn’t play like a man who didn’t pick up a bat for a month after the World Cup. His trademark cut was in fine working order, he pulled strongly whenever anything was short and milked the spinners comfortably. There was an early shout for lbw by Suranga Lakmal but few other scares against a gentle pace attack and he reached his hundred with a powerful square drive off his 161st delivery, his first century in Middlesex colours since April 2009.Sri Lanka’s pace bowling will be their major weakness on this tour and they are also missing Dilhara Fernando for this game as he’s at the IPL along with Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Suraj Randiv and Thisara Perera. In dry conditions the pacemen will hope reverse swing plays a part during the Test series otherwise there isn’t much bite available. Strauss eventually fell to a top-edged pull that found deep square-leg andSri Lankastaged a final-session revival.
They really need the spinners to play a key role. Ajantha Mendis’ mystry has seemingly become unravelled and he offered up a number of loose deliveries which Strauss and Dan Housego latched on to during their stand of 214. Rangana Herath is a very tidy left-arm spinner and improved as the day went on to finish with 2 for 67.
However, there wasn’t great support in the field which is requried on flat surfaces. Housego twice benefitted from four overthrows after hopeful throws missed the stumps while some of the general groundwork was shoddy. These are early days for the tour, but there isn’t much time to shake off the rust.
Sam Robson, one of a number of second team players given a chance, was the only wickety to fall in the first two sessions when he edged a low catch to the wicketkeeper. After seemingly starting to walk he then paused until the umpires, Andy Hicks and Jeff Evans, confirmed the ball had carried.
The successful bowler was Farveez Maharoof who wasn’t part of the original touring squad and was drafted in to cover for the IPL absentees. The pick of the quicks was the left-armer Chanaka Welegedara who bowled at a decent pace. He doesn’t have the craft of Chaminda Vaas but could do a decent job during the Tests.
Housego, who made a positive start and cashed in on some short balls from Mendis, impressed with his timing and placement. His second first-class century came from 148 balls but he fell a short while later when he top-edged a sweep. Adam Rossington was bowled behind his legs as he tried to sweep Herath and Jamie Dalrymple, in his comeback for Middlesex, was foxed by a slider from Mendis with the new ball.
While the action was taking place on the pitch, outside the ground there was a protest by the Tamil Youth Organisation who wantSri Lankacricket boycotted until the country agrees to an investigation of war crimes in 2009. They chanted throughout the session from a cordoned off area and are expected to be a presence at various stages throughout the tour.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Day two May 15, 2011
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Middlesex 360 for 8 dec and 26 for 1 lead Sri Lankans 309 for 2 dec (Dilshan 123, Paranavitana 103) by 77 runs
On the first day at Uxbridge it was the Englandcaptain reacquainting himself with first-class cricket and on the second it was the turn of Sri Lanka’s. Barely three days after flying in from the IPL for this tour, Tillakaratne Dilshan helped himself to 123 on a productive day for the tourists’ top order against a weak Middlesex attack as Tharanga Paranavitana also made 103.
The value of these runs will be tempered by the fact that none of the Middlesex bowlers are regular first-team players, but Dilshan and Paranavitana made the most of the friendly fare on offer and a flat surface. As the opening day confirmed the suspicion thatSri Lanka’s bowling will suffer, today’s action showed the batting should be able to hold itself together. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara will arrive next week and along with Dilshan and Thilan Samaraweera they form a potent line-up.England’s bowlers may toil as well.
There is often much made about the switch from Twenty20 to first-class cricket, but Dilshan took one style into the other and set off at a pace more akin to the IPL he has just left. although he was dropped at second slip on 10. Middlesex’s young seamers, Tom Parsons and Gurjit Sandhu, had a tough introduction while left-arm spinner Tom Smith was taken for 14 in his first over.
Dilshan’s fifty came from 48 balls and he only slowed a little to reach three figures from 108 deliveries before retiring midway through the afternoon session to give his team-mates a chance.England’s bowlers know plenty about Dilshan – he struck an unbeaten 108 in the World Cup quarter-final – and will have to ensure they can string some maiden overs together against him.
Paranavitana, as he often has been during his 16-match Test career, was content to ride in Dilshan’s slipstream and play at his own pace. It has caused some surprise that Upul Tharanga, who helped Dilshan secure the 10-wicket victory overEnglandinColombo, doesn’t make the Test squad these days but Paranavitana has made a promising start with two hundreds and an average of 37.
However, all his 16 Tests to date have been on the subcontinent so his challenge will be to adapt to the extra bounce that Strauss will hope the Test pitches offer. It helpsSri Lanka’s cause that the first Test is inCardiff, one of slower surfaces in the country, and theEnglandmanagement will wish for more carry than the Ashes pitch two years ago.
On this slow pitch at Uxbridge, Paranavitana had few problems adjusting during his 145-ball hundred before remaining in the pavilion after the tea interval. That allowed two ofSri Lanka’s rising talents, Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal, to add an unbroken 59. Chandimal dominated the stand and may take the No. 6 spot during the Tests after a prolific domestic season.
Sri Lankacould have batted on for the remainder of the day, but Dilshan showed another of his positive sides when he gave Middlesex a short session. It paid off as Suranga Lakmal removed Sam Robson for a duck and more success on the final day will leave the tourists in decent heart.
Sri Lanka attack backed to surprise
May 15, 2011
|Related LinksPlayers/Officials: Nuwan Pradeep | Dilhara Fernando | Thisara Perera | Chanaka Welegedara
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of England and Scotland
Teams: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s fast bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake is confident that his young and inexperienced charges can spring a surprise onEngland in the upcoming three-Test series. Ramanayake, who played 18 Tests and 62 one-day internationals from 1988 to 1995, will have to make the most of limited resources especially in the pace department.
Without the retired Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga the onus will be on Dilhara Fernando, who has played 35 Tests, to lead the attack. Fernando missedSri Lanka’s first warm-up match against Middlesex, at Uxbridge, but will play against England Lions next week ahead of the opening Test inCardiff. The total experience ofSri Lanka’s five seam options is limited to 105 wickets in 43 Tests with 90 of those coming from Fernando.
None of the fast bowlers picked forSri Lanka’s last tour toEnglandin 2006 are around in the present squad namely, Vaas, Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Zoysa and Farveez Maharoof, although the latter was drafted in for the first week of the tour. Fernando touredEnglandin 2002 and is the only bowler with some kind of experience in English conditions.
“Yes, we have one of the most inexperienced fast bowling line ups taken toEngland. Except for Dilhara Fernando the others haven’t played much Test cricket at all,” Ramanayake said. “It’s an opportunity for the youngsters to take over and continue. We have the disadvantage of inexperience but looking at it the other way none of the English players have played against our fast bowlers before. It’s an unknown attack to them. I think with that we can unsettle them.”
Englandwill know plenty about Fernando and did have a brief taste of Chandaka Welegedara, the left-arm quick, when he made his Test debut atGalle in 2007 but their preparation for the rest will rely in video footage and some advice from Andrew Strauss who hit 151 against them at Uxbridge.
“The Englishmen don’t know much about these bowlers and they have not faced them,” Ramanayake said. “It will take some time for them to gauge them and get to know what they are doing. They all bowl quite sharp. Nuwan Pradeep and Thisara Perera bowl in the 140s, Suranga Lakmal has already played two Tests againstWest Indiesand bowled really well.
“Perera is waiting on the wings to get into the Test team and has done well in the past year and a half in ODIs. We’ve got some good youngsters and I am quite happy to take this squad because we can really work something with these boys. They can improve and you’ll never know they’ll get wickets in English conditions. I have great belief in them that they can do well.”
Pradeep, who had an IPL contract but left early along with captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, is one who comes in for particularly praise from Ramanayake. “You take Pradeep he hasn’t played any cricket at all in his younger days and at school,” he said. “He’s got raw pace, beautiful rhythm and consistency. Consistency comes from rhythm. If the rhythm pattern changes then you don’t bowl a consistently good line and length. You’ve got to be smart as well nowadays.
“You got to expect what the batsman is going to do, assess conditions and adjust to the situations and bowl. All these young fast bowlers they haven’t got it yet, but they are getting it from the exposure we give them. They got the right ingredients and this is the best bowling unit we have right now.”
Ramanayake also hopes that responsibility will help bring the best out of Fernando who has always been foil for the likes of Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan but now has to be a spearhead on his own. “Dilhara hasn’t played much cricket in the last few months but still the selectors have faith in him,” he said. “He has to deliver the goods because he is the only experienced bowler and he has to show that he is good enough to play Test cricket. That will give him a little bit of responsibility to take up the challenge and do well inEngland.”
Ramanayake thinksSri Lankawill play three quick bowlers in the Test series, although there best chance could come if the dry weather continues and their spinners – Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis and Suraj Randiv – can play both an attacking and defensive role.
“The two warm-up games are vital for us and whoever performs well will have a good chance of playing because you got to get used to the conditions,” he said. “Depending on the pitches three will definitely play or maybe four if there is a lot of grass on the wicket. We are expecting some seaming tracks, but you never know.
“Englandhas been quite warm. The weather pattern has changed and we might get warm weather but normally in early summer the wickets are expected to seam. We’ve also got three good spinners in our attack. Rangana very experienced, Suraj has been bowling really well and Ajantha has also got some experience.”
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May 16, 2011
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D ay Three 309 for 2 dec and 216 for 6 (Samaraweera 49, Smith 2-45) beat Middlesex 360 for 8 dec and 161 (Malan 34, Mendis 3-28) by four wickets
Sri Lankamade slightly hard work of chasing 213 at Uxbridge but opened their tour with a four-wicket victory as they reached the target with five overs to spare having bowled Middlesex out for 161. After a tough day in the field to begin with,Sri Lankahave made decent use of this outing ahead of a sterner test against the England Lions atDerby.
In the chase they altered the batting order to give others a chase and most of them chipped in. Thilan Samaraweera made 49 but when Tillakaratne Dilshan, who opened up the match with his positive declaration on the second evening, was sharply held, one-handed, in the gully by Jamie Dalrymple it left them needing 32 with four wickets in hand. However, Farveez Maharoof, who isn’t part of the official touring squad, and Rangana Herath made ensured no further alarms with a brisk partnership.
“Playing here isn’t easy,” Dilshan said, “but as a team we are prepared to play good cricket and I’m happy with the first match.”
Middlesex, though, ensured a contest as the bowlers finally made an impression after a barren first innings. However, the first breakthrough didn’t go in anyone’s wicket column as Tom Parsons ran from his follow through, slid and then threw down the stumps to remove Prasanna Jayawardene.
There was no great urgency from theSri Lankatop as the first four overs brought five runs but steadily the pace increased. Lahiru Thirimanne had reached 33 when he edged Jamie Dalrymple to slip as a Middlesex bowler registered success. Samaraweera fell in similar fashion one short of his fifty and Dinesh Chandimal was lbw on the sweep against Tom Smith. Tharanga Paranavitana again looked in good order before lofting Smith to deep midwicket with 32 needed.
The most heartening part of the performance for the visitors will have been the second-innings display of the bowlers following a tough start when Andrew Strauss, who will have logged some useful pointers for the Test series, and Dan Housego added 214. Chanaka Welegedara, who is likely to share the new ball during first Test, was the pick of the quicks in the first innings and was again lively second time around while Ajantha Mendis’ confidence will have been helped by three wickets.
Welegedara made the key breakthrough when Strauss was caught in the gully in the fifth over of the day, which followed swiftly on the heels of the other first-innings century maker, Housego, who was bowled by Suranga Lakmal. This was a largely inexperienced Middlesex side and without Strauss to bat around the rest of the order couldn’t impose themselves.
Adam Rossington became Welegedara’s second to highlight the value of having a left-armer in the ranks, a role long performed by Chaminda Vaas. He later removed John Simpson, caught at slip, and finished with 3 for 39.
Dawid Malan had played some attractive shots during his 34 put edged rather softly to a lone slip and when Dalrymple failed to pick Mendis for the second time in the match Middlesex were 90 for 6. Smith was lbw to one from Herath that skidded through last ball before lunch, but Anthony Ireland managed a few strong blows to take the lead over 200.Sri Lankaalways had a bit to spare and Strauss will hope it’s there only victory while he’s involved.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo