Derbyshire v Sri Lanka, Derby, 2nd day April 30, 2006

Birt flays Sri Lankans after batting struggles

Cricinfo staff

Derbyshire 219 and 208 for 4 (Birt 83, Taylor 53) lead Sri Lankans 166 for 7 (Kapugedera 45) by 261 runs

The Sri Lankans certainly aren't having things all their own way as they prepare for the first Test against England, but decided to make a game of their warm-up clash against Derbyshire. After struggling to gain a foothold in their reply to Derbyshire's 219, they declared 53 behind. The bowlers then suffered some tap, especially from Travis Birt, setting up the prospect of a final-day run chase.

However, as with their wobbles against British Universities last week, it is the batting of the Sri Lankans where most interest lies. Facing up to the likes of Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff is hard enough at the best of times, but without form behind you it becomes even tougher.

Four of the probable Sri Lankan top order for the first Test at Lord's made a combined total of 12 runs between them. The inexperienced opening pair of Michael Vandort - needlessly run-out in a mix-up with Kumar Sangakkara - and Upul Tharanga were quickly followed back to the hutch by Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Much rests on the latter two and they are struggling for meaningful innings.

Some respectability was restored by Chamara Kapugedera, a talented player who has already given Australia a taste of his skills, and Farveez Maharoof, who can play a key role with bat and ball. The pair added 66 and it was Maharoof's dismissal to Kevin Dean that prompted Sangakkara to call the batsmen in.

Derbyshire took up the challenge with gusto. Birt launched an all-out attack, including two fours and a six off Muttiah Muralitharan's first three balls, as the innings raced along at five-an-over. Birt's fun ended when he was stumped after 53 balls but, along with a more circumspect half-century from Chris Taylor, the lead sped past 200.

It shouldn't be long into the final day before Sri Lanka are given the chance to make amends for their first-innings flop.