Injured Prasad ruled out of first Test
Sri Lankans 367 (Shanaka 112, Mendis 65, Herath 55) and 200 for 4 dec (Karunaratne 100) drew with Leicestershire 375 for 5 dec (Burgess 98, Wells 87*)
With the first Test less than a week away, Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford was satisfied with what he saw on the final day of his side's last warm-up match. Leicestershire, despite making nine changes to their first XI, gave the tourists a good work out in a low-key encounter.
Less pleasing for Sri Lanka was the confirmation that Dhammika Prasad has been ruled out of playing at Headingley. Prasad injured his shoulder while bowling against Essex last week and, although it was described as nothing more than a "niggle" at the time, Ford said it was more serious than initially thought.
"He's not available for the first Test and it's an ongoing assessment, on a daily basis," he said. "I am hoping that we can get him bowling again fairly soon. Then we'll have to build him up and get quite a number of overs bowled in the nets in order to prepare him for potentially the second and third Test."
Prasad was at Grace Road and, as the day drew to a close, was given a workout to test his shoulder's readiness. A specialist came to assess the injury but, in Ford's words, "he's still got a bit of an issue". If he is to make the second or the third Test, a lot of work, both on the shoulder and in the nets, will be required. It is a huge blow for Sri Lanka and perhaps a relief for England, who were put to the sword by Prasad during the 2014 Headingley Test, when he took 5 for 50, which included dismissing the top four in an inspired evening spell on day four.
Ford could however reflect with satisfaction on a fine unbeaten hundred from Dimuth Karunaratne, which showcased his worth at the top of the innings (and helped make up for a four-ball duck in the first innings). There was also starts for Kaushal Silva and Lahiru Thirimanne. "It was nice to see a couple more finding form," Ford said.
He also took the opportunity to back Thirimanne, who has endured a torrid run in Test cricket, with two half-centuries in his last 28 innings. While he did finish on 40 not out, it was far from a convincing innings. Aside from one lusty six off Rob Sayer, which rattled the press box at the Bennett End, most of his runs came behind square. Ford, though, had nothing but belief in a player he said has "been there and done it".
"He has played against big, tough opposition before and scored runs. That's a big plus. Unfortunately he's coming back from injury so he hasn't had as much cricket as he would have liked or we would have liked. But he's getting himself back into some good touch, which is really good going forward."
The major bright spot was the overall performance of Dusan Shanaka. His first-innings 112 was followed by 16-wicketless overs with the ball. He took a while to get going but produced a few deliveries on a flattening pitch that beat the outside edge and popped off a length. The fact that he is a seam-bowling allrounder - a dime a dozen in Sri Lankan cricket at the moment - is something Ford is enticed by, particularly in English conditions. There is every chance he has played himself into Test contention.
"We know just what a difference allrounders can make," Ford said. "England are quite blessed with allrounders. Shanaka has shown he can bat positively but still play good cricket shots. With the series we have ahead of us, it's very important we develop him as a player. If he's in the line-up, it does give us more bowling options. The boy's in very good form and so much of being successful is players walking out with confidence. Again, we'll chat more with the selectors, but he has just come off a hundred and feeling pretty good about himself."
A decision on who will keep wicket will also need to be made. That, along with the batting line-up, will be discussed by Ford, the coaching staff and captain Angelo Mathews. After consultation with the selectors in Sri Lanka, it is expected the XI will be finalised in the next two days.
Niroshan Dickwella kept for the entire Leicestershire innings in this match - Dinesh Chandimal had a throat infection which kept him off the field on day two - and was very tidy; Grace Road is one of the more difficult venues to keep at. Ford rates them "equally as good as each other" and said form with the bat would be the decider. After Dickwella's 10-ball duck in the second innings, Chandimal looks to be the frontrunner in that regard. Then again, Sri Lanka are not so keen for their No. 4 batsman to be preoccupied with keeping wicket.
Leicestershire declared their innings after 100 overs, as per the pre-match agreement, to give Sri Lanka half an hour before lunch. However, Tom Wells seemed oblivious to the match set-up. Primarily a limited-overs middle-order blitzer, Wells showed that he possesses a strong four-day game by bringing up his second first-class fifty. He was on 77 and in sight of a maiden hundred when Ned Eckersley ran on to inform him he only had three more overs left in which to get there. Jolted into life, he tried to tee off but only managed to add 10 runs to his total.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport