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May 14, 2011
Middlesex 321 for 5 (Strauss 151, Housego 104) v Sri Lanka
Andrew Strauss's last innings was the World Cup quarter-final against Sri Lanka and seven weeks on from that poor display in Colombo he 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 making England the No. 1 Test team after the three-way captaincy split, has a maximum of four first-class innings before the first Test in Cardiff on 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 and Sri Lanka staged 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 want Sri Lanka cricket 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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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