Rain forces draw at Chelmsford
Sri Lankans 337 for 9 dec (Sangakkara 153, Thirimanne 104, Topley 4-23) and 38 for 3 (Topley 2-11) drew with Essex 351 (ten Doeschate 164, Westley 99, Randiv 4-76)
There were cricket matches abandoned across the country on Sunday, and Sri Lanka's Tour Match against Essex at Chelmsford was one of those to fall foul of inclement weather. Less than 13 overs were bowled before persistent rain led to an early end after lunch on day three, although that was still enough time for 17-year-old seamer Reece Topley to rattle the tourists' top order with two quick wickets as they reached 38 for 3 in their second innings.
Topley had first-innings centurion and likely Test debutant Lahiru Thirimanne caught behind in his second over before Maurice Chambers removed opening partner Tharanga Paranavitana for a single. In the very next over Topley got rid of Dinesh Chandimal and Sri Lanka were staring at a repeat of their final day capitulation at Cardiff, having been reduced to a perilous 10 for 3.
But Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera stood firm until the lunch break and, ultimately, the end of the match, putting on an unbeaten 28 in 10 overs. With Tillakaratne Dilshan unlikely to feature in the third Test at the Rose Bowl, Sri Lanka will be looking to their other senior batsmen to step up their games, and as such Sangakkara's performance in this match will have been heartening to them.
"There is no change at this stage," Sri Lanka coach Stuart Law said of Dilshan's recovery from a fractured thumb. "His thumb is still in a splint, he is also in some discomfort at this stage and the medical team have said that he is highly likely to miss the Test. So the game against Essex has proved very useful because it's allowed a couple of our batsmen to get amongst the runs.
"Young Lahiru Thirimanne, who is only 21, batted well in our first innings and hit 104 before we retired him out, which was a good indication that he was hitting the ball as good as he could. It was also great for Sangakkara to get out there and score 153 runs in the first innings and that will do his confidence no end of good."
A lively Chelmsford pitch showed that the frailties in Sri Lanka's batting remain, however, and they are still susceptible to pace and bounce - as the 6' 7" Topley showed while collecting match figures of 6 for 34. "He has bags of talent and we are delighted with his progress," said Chris Silverwoord, the former England seamer and current bowling coach at Essex. "He has a big heart, is quick to take on advice and works hard at his game.
"It's very encouraging to see the level of progress he has made so far and he's made a very encouraging start to his career, but he knows there is a lot of hard work ahead of him yet."