Northants v Sri Lankans, Tour match, Wantage Road, 4th day June 8, 2014

SL buoyant despite Keogh resistance


Sri Lankans 558 for 8 dec (Thirimanne 156, Silva 152, Dilruwan 59) and 99 for 4 drew with Northamptonshire 345 (Keogh 120, Levi 64)

Sri Lanka will head into the first Test at Lord's generally fortified in their hopes of scalping England at home for the third series in a row and a little wiser about their starting line-up after a gentle workout in one of the quieter corners of the county circuit. Dinesh Chandimal, promoted to open the second innings, managed only a single-figure score but Dimuth Karunaratne's scratchy 38 did not quite cement the batting order. Four wickets for Dhammika Prasad, however, suggested at some clarity in the bowling.

Karunaratne was dropped at slip on 32, slashing hard at David Willey, and then played a delivery from Matthew Spriegel on to his stumps shortly before Sri Lanka called a halt to their batting practice and the game was declared a draw. The decision to send in Chandimal ahead of Kausal Silva, whose 152 on Thursday assured his place for Lord's, suggested at a final opportunity to stake a claim but neither he or Karunaratne managed to build an unequivocal case.

Lahiru Thirimanne, Sri Lanka's Test vice-captain, said afterwards that there were still some decisions to make on the final XI, while indicating he would bat in the middle order rather than return to opening. Neither Thirimanne, who also made a first-innings hundred, or Silva were required to pad up again in the 31 overs the tourists were afforded on the final afternoon, with only Kumar Sangakkara hinting at fluency before holing out short of a half-century.

"Batters had the chance to bat through the innings and the bowlers did well, because it was not a bowling-friendly wicket," Thirimanne said of the match, which became a three-day contest after Saturday was washed out. "Dhammika bowled really well, good areas and he bowled with some good pace. We have some experienced bowlers but we don't have that extra pace."

That Sri Lanka's second innings became a rather desultory affair was down to Northamptonshire's unexpected resistance, as they passed 300 for only the second time this year. Rob Keogh made an impressive century before falling to Prasad, who was more threatening than his seam-bowling colleagues largely thanks to an effectively deployed bouncer. Shaminda Eranga, who did not feature against Northants, is already pencilled in as a member of the Test attack, with Chanaka Welegedara and Nuwan Pradeep seemingly contesting the third seamer spot.

"It's really tough [in England] because this is the early summer and we haven't had that much practice. We'll expect some tough conditions in the Test matches," Thirimanne said. "We have to take 20 wickets to win matches, that's the main thing we have to work on.

"Confidence levels are really high. We haven't had much luck in the past, we want to win a Test series here so that is the main concern. Boys are really confident."

There were a couple of encouraging firsts for Northants, two months into a season that has repeatedly given optimism a cold-water dunking. Keogh reached three figures, the first Northamptonshire batsmen to do so in first-class cricket in 2014; and Willey took his first senior wicket since September, bowling with encouraging pace and swing. He also clubbed 48, including a couple of sixes, before impetuosity got the better of him and he was stumped.

Keogh's landmark was indicative of the club's travails in Division One, as much as his own promise. A broken finger - inflicted by another man who could be playing in the Lord's Test, Liam Plunkett, during pre-season - had ruled him out of the early fixtures but he should have earned himself a run in the first team with this innings, notable for regular appearances of a vengeful cover drive, against an attack with 41 Test caps between them.

Having navigated his way steadily from an overnight 26, Keogh was on 80 when the eighth and ninth wickets fell to Dilruwan Perera. Confident that first-class debutant Chad Barrett had the minerals to hang around, Keogh took his time before opening up with three fours through the off side against Pradeep to bring up the second hundred of his career. Barrett, initially nudging and blocking before becoming emboldened, hung around to help add 64 in little more than 12 overs.

Sri Lanka had already expressed a preference for batting again ahead of the Test series, despite Northants starting the day well adrift of passing the follow-on target of 408. The hosts were not quite as accommodating as they had been in the first half of the match, however, with Keogh gluing together the lower order and 119 runs coming for the loss of just two wickets during the morning session.

Dilruwan bowled an extended spell, tossing the ball up but extracting little turn, while Thirimanne rotated his seamers. Welegedara's left-arm angle of attack appeared to test Keogh the most but he watched the ball well, picking up boundaries driving square of the wicket, to pass fifty in first-class cricket for only the third time.

His stand with Spriegel was worth 86 when Dilruwan made the breakthrough - though it was more like leaning heavily on a partition wall than battering down the front door at Fort Knox. Spriegel had survived the only chance of the first hour when a nick off Prasad skipped low past Prasanna Jayawardene but he eventually fell chipping tamely to mid-on, giving Sri Lanka their first wicket in more than 30 overs.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ted on June 9, 2014, 11:01 GMT

    @Sam_Liyanage: I completely agree with your comment. When you think about the upcoming Test series in Eng, the obvious question is, DO WE HAVE any OPENER with EXPERIENCE, especially in those conditions? We have Kaushal, who is new. Although, UPUL THARANGA had been given just 15 Tests, he had accumulated 713 Test Runs, Averaging 28.52 , 165 HS + 3 x 50+ scores in Test format with a HALF CENTURY Vs Eng at Lord's & many good scores in Eng, NZ, India, SL & Bang.

    When you consider his ability to stay at the wicket, in any condition, Tharanga is the OBVIOUS OPTION to try out in Tests, especially in England.

    Tharanga is holding the WORLD RECORD for the MOST number of 200+ PARTNERSHIPS in ODIs. He has involved SEVEN times in 200+ partnerships for SL!. Only Ricky Ponting has equaled this World Record.

    His unique record of long partnerships in ODIs, is a Golden Testimony for his ability to stay at the wicket. His EXCLUSION is INEXPLICABLE! It seems, Behind the Seen FORCES ruin SL CRICKET :(

  • Lalith on June 9, 2014, 10:54 GMT

    Only chance for SL is to win the toss bat first and put at least 400 runs. That would put Eng under pressure.

  • Lalith on June 9, 2014, 10:44 GMT

    I s it time for Sanga and Mahela to do the job or retire??

  • Lalith on June 9, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    I am not sure SL has any chance as they do not have bowers to get 20 wickets. Maximum SL can d is to make it draw subject to the Sanga and Mahela's performances. At the moment Mahela is down and only Sanga to do the big job. My predition is 2 nil win to England with easy wins.

  • Dummy4 on June 9, 2014, 10:00 GMT

    Chandimal sacrificed his place to Thiri in ODI & T20 as he is not in form, but why in test ? Chandimal scored a century in his last appearance. Is Thiri try to rob chandimals place as he is the vice captian. When all the other batsmen play in permenant places why only Chandimal was send in different places? Why not giving him to bat in a proper place . Please see the batting avg of Chandimal in each batting position compared to other top batsmen. I feel there is a stepmotherly treatement to Chandimal. Is that because Chandimals best position is No 4?

  • ESPN on June 9, 2014, 7:37 GMT

    England 2-0

  • Keppetipola on June 9, 2014, 7:16 GMT

    My team for the first test is Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Thirimanne, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Eranga, Herath, Dilruwan Perera and Pradeep.

    Herath is the best spinner in the world today and Sri Lanka are the most exciting team in world cricket definitely!

  • Dummy4 on June 9, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    I agree with Sam_Liyanage all the way with regards to Upul Tharanga. How Upul does not feature in our line ups is a mystery we cannot even attempt to understand. He is one of SL best batsmen. He has hardly had a chance to prove his worth. Wonder what Upul has not got that Chandimal has? Upul has played in UK conditions during his stint in UK. He put up an unforgettable partnership with Sanath at Headingly?. Come on SL selectors and management. Focus on SL cricket and not other peti minded reasons you may have to exclude a player like Upul who can only be an asset to SL team.

  • udendra on June 9, 2014, 7:03 GMT

    the problem with Prasad is his incosistency and a real run-leaker. His batting might come handy than his bowling.

  • Ranil on June 9, 2014, 5:18 GMT

    I would say again that we should go in the first Test which is our best chance for a win with a makeshift opener in Dilruwan who would be valuable as the second spinner. As in the Northampton game Sanga will be at the crease to face the second or third ball with Dimuth (or Chandimal) opening so losing his place for a Dilruwan should not cause batting problems. Hope the selectors will be brave & positive rather than trying to save a game.

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