Sri Lanka top order punishes Essex
Sri Lankans 324 for 4 (Sangakkara 148*, Thirimanne 104) v Essex
The Sri Lankans had a satisfying opening day against Essex as centuries from two top-order batsmen left them in a strong position. The man likely to take the place of injured captain Tillakaratne Dilshan in the third Test, Lahiru Thirimanne, and the out-of-form former captain, Kumar Sangakkara, both made hundreds on a rain-hit day to make it a day of toil for the Essex bowlers.
It was not Sangakkara who led the side but Thilan Samaraweera, who chose to bat. The rain which has dogged much of the tour followed Sri Lanka to Chelmsford, and only 14 overs were possible before lunch, with three stoppages of play. Tharanga Paranavitana, who has made plenty of runs on the tour, and Thirimanne began brightly putting on 53 before showers forced an early lunch.
Paranavitana nicked to the wicketkeeper soon after the break to give left-arm medium-pacer Tymal Mills his first wicket in first-class cricket, and that proved to be the only breakthrough for Essex till about half an hour before stumps as Thirimanne and Sangakkara put on 152 for the second wicket.
Thirimanne, a 21-year-old left-hand batsman who plays for Ragama, was reprieved at third slip on 11 by Tom Westley and he capitalised on the chance, making his maiden first-class century outside Sri Lanka. He hit 15 fours in his innings but it was Sangakkara who was the more adventurous batsman, sprinting to an unbeaten 148 by stumps with the help of 23 fours and a six. Thirimanne retired at tea, to give the other batsmen a hit.
Sangakkara added 67 with highly-rated Dinesh Chandimal and the Sri Lankans had cruised to 290 for 2 before Ravi Bopara, leading Essex for the first time, struck twice in an over late in the day. He removed Chandimal and Samaraweera in the space of three deliveries but it wasn't enough to prevent it from being Sri Lanka's day.