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June 5, 2014
Sri Lankans 358 for 3 (Silva 152*, Thirimanne 120*) v Northamptonshire
Wantage Road provided an atmosphere far removed from the tension that surrounded the end of the one-day series at Edgbaston as the Sri Lankans eased into Test preparation ahead of Lord's next week.
They will have been highly satisfied by their day's work. Kaushal Silva, who will open in the Test series, batted compactly and confidently throughout the day during a 186-ball hundred, and Lahiru Thirimanne, leading the tourists in the absence of the rested Angelo Mathews, benefitted from being dropped first ball by Ben Duckett to join Silva with a century during the final session from 151 deliveries.
"It was nice to spend some time in the middle. Overall they bowled really well. It's a nice pitch to bat on," Thirimanne said, before acknowledging his fortune. "It was a nice ball, I just nicked it and I was lucky to bat through the rest of the day."
The pair added 238 for the fourth wicket against a friendly Northamptonshire bowling attack, which delivered just six maidens in the day, although Steven Crook generated enough pace to keep the batsmen on their toes.
For David Willey it was his first outing with the ball in the first team this season, following the stress fracture of his back which has plagued him since the winter, ruling him out of the Lions, and he felt his way back into the bowling crease with 12 overs. He is expected to be limited to 20 in the match.
Alongside Mathews, who gave himself the match off, Rangana Herath was not given an outing before the Test series - offspinner Dilruwan Perera was offered a chance - while the pace attack next week could be made up of any combination of the seamers in the party.
Dimuth Karunaratne is clinging onto his Test berth at the moment so could have done with more than falling in the second over of the day, getting an inside edge into his thigh pad which flew to gully, and will have looked on wistfully as two colleagues filled their boots on a flat pitch in pleasant sunshine.
Sri Lanka would Mankad again
His opening partner, Silva, has far fewer concerns. A solid series against Pakistan in the UAE was followed by a maiden Test hundred in Dhaka. With a bat and pads that really looked too big for him, the diminutive Silva barely put a foot wrong as he compiled a textbook first-class innings, seeing off the new ball then building his tempo throughout the day. His first fifty took 123 balls, his second just 63, as a 16th boundary, driven through the off side, took him to three figures.
He was given a life on 124, dropped down the leg side off Matthew Spriegel as Duckett missed his second chance, and responded by clobbering the next delivery over deep midwicket for his second six. In the penultimate over of the day he ticked through to his 150 and, if the hunger persists in the morning, his career-best 193 is in sight.
At 120 for 3, the weakened Northamptonshire attack could be satisfied with their work having removed Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. That should have become four down straightaway when when Thirimanne edged Crook but Duckett, the England Under-19 player, spilled a regulation chance slightly to his left.
Thirimanne struggled at the start of the one-day series, especially against James Anderson, but found some form on moving down the order and was unbeaten on 60 when the series was wrapped up amid acrimony two days ago. If Sri Lanka decide not to persist with Karunaratne he could move back up the order although appears more at ease in his current role.
After the escape he was strong through the off side, although was fed plenty of take advantage of, and later added a six over the longer boundary towards deep midwicket off Graeme White. The final session of 30 overs brought 137 runs.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene had promised more substantial innings before both falling to excellent catches. Sangakkara could barely believe it when he pulled the part-time medium pace of Kyle Coetzer, who had just four first-class wickets, to deep backward square-leg, where debutant Chad Barrett judged the catch superbly near the rope.
After lunch Jayawardene - having skipped 46 with seven boundaries - was spectacularly held in the gully by Spriegel but the rest of the day became toil.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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