Sangakkara to play two Durham matches
Kumar Sangakkara will play two County Championship matches for Durham, against Yorkshire and Sussex, in preparation for Sri Lanka's tour of England. Sangakkara will miss Sri Lanka's two ODIs in Ireland, and will join the squad after completing his second Durham match on May 14, ahead of Sri Lanka's warm-up one-dayer against Kent.
"I'm really looking forward to returning to county cricket with Durham and I'm immensely grateful for the opportunity," Sangakkara said. "I actually made my debut for Warwickshire against Durham back in 2007 - I scored a few runs that day so I'm hoping to make amends this time around."
Sangakkara had sought a short-term county contract in order to acclimatise to England's early summer conditions and the Duke ball, but had to wait on clearance from the national selectors, and a no-objection certificate from the board, before confirming the deal with Durham. Sri Lanka play their limited-overs leg of the tour first and switch to Test mode via a first-class match against Northamptonshire starting June 5.
Last week, chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya had said he had hoped up to six Sri Lanka players would travel to England early in order to undertake early-season Duke-ball training, but that those plans had been upset by the departure of Paul Farbrace, who was expected to have facilitated the extra training time. At present, it appears only Sangakkara has secured a county stint - and that, only after significant effort.
"To attract a player of Kumar Sangakkara's quality to Durham is fantastic, and I've been really impressed by his eagerness to join us," Durham coach Jon Lewis said. "In his short stay, I'm sure he'll be a big asset - not just with his performances, but with the example he will show our crop of fine young cricketers."
The tour represents an opportunity for Sri Lanka to win their first Test in England since 2006. Sangakkara will also be set on improving an Test average of 30.58 from nine Tests in England - a figure that pales in comparison to his career average of 58.07.
In February, Sangakkara said his decision to withhold his name from the IPL auction this year had been partly motivated by the desire to prepare for the England tour, as well as acknowledgement of a tight May schedule. During Sri Lanka's most recent tour of England in 2011, Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene had missed a warm-up match due to IPL commitments.
Sri Lanka play Tests at Lord's and Headingley, the first of which begins on June 12. Durham's match against Yorkshire begins on May 4 and the Sussex match on May 11.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando