England may not have covered themselves in glory, but for a first outing, this two-day practice game against a Sri Lanka Board Colts XI was surely a satisfactory start. The game was eventually called off at 4.55pm with England 24 for two in their second innings after the Colts XI had declared on 232 for eight in their first innings.
Nasser HussainPhoto CricInfo
The England team treated this game as little more than middle practice, and in spite of a brittle performance by the middle order yesterday and a second cheap dismissal for Michael Atherton today, Nasser Hussain was pleased with the progress that has been made in adapting to Sri Lankan conditions.
"It's been a satisfying two days against a good side on a sporting wicket," he said. "Everyone got a bowl and bat and a few of the boys are a little tired now. No matter how much training you do in the gym you feel it in the legs after 80 overs in the field. But I'm glad that we're tired, that's exactly what we wanted. It's important for both the batsmen and the bowlers to get used to the heat.
"This was like a net, and rather than treating it as a real match, we had to use it for practice. Thus we shuffled around the bowlers without giving too much thought to the scoreboard, and just made sure that we didn't overdo it at this stage of the tour."
Hussain was unconcerned by the rare sight of Michael Atherton being bowled out twice in a match. "It was that type of wicket to be honest. It has been re-laid and was a bit up and down. In the end it was a bit disappointing going out there for a second knock as no one was going to benefit."
Not only did the England bowlers get valuable overs under their belt, but they bowled with impressive discipline and control. Darren Gough bowled with good rhythm, attacked the crease, and got the ball to reverse swing in his third spell. In his first spell he clean bowled both Ian Daniel for 13 runs and Pradeep Hewage for 25 in consecutive overs, with two swift deliveries that skidded through the batsmen's defences.
Andrew Caddick improved with each spell he bowled. The Somerset fast bowler hit the seam, bowled accurately throughout and exploited the variable bounce in the wicket. He was made to wait a while for his first wicket though, as Malintha Perera (50) and Sunendra Kumara (46) added 105 for the third wicket. But in his third and final spell, which was split by the tea interval, Caddick trapped Anushka Polonowita lbw with a ball that jagged back into the batsman. Then he clean bowled the schoolboy batsmen, Sukitha Peiris and Kaushal Lokuarachchi, with consecutive deliveries.
Robert Croft was dealt with harshly when he was introduced into the attack, hit for 27 runs in his first four overs. But Hussain tinkered with his field and persevered with his off-spinner. Afforded protection on the boundary, Croft started to bowl with greater confidence and finished with two for 73 from his 20.2 overs.
Hussain was content with Croft's first bowl back in England colours. "I was very pleased for him. I didn't want to over-attack, as players in this part of the world don't just let spinners bowl, they go after them. When you've sat around for four months without bowling it's always going to be hard work in this heat. So I gave him a long bowl and I thought he bowled pretty well. He eased himself in at the beginning before finding the right pace to bowl and used the breeze well when he changed ends."
England have been given tomorrow off before a four-day game against a Sri Lanka Board President's XI, which starts on Thursday.