February 7, 2002

Sri Lanka A batsmen ease hosts into strong position

CricInfo

Sri Lanka A's batsman capitalised on a fine batting pitch and clear skies to leave themselves in commanding position at the end of the first day of the second unofficial Test against Kenya at Uyanwatte Stadium in Matara on Thursday.

Sri Lanka A, who had one the first game in convincing fashion after a dramatic Kenyan collapse on the final day, eased their way to 298 for five thanks to half centuries from Upeka Fernando, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Chamara Silva.

In Colombo, all of Sri Lanka's top five scored fifties but none went onto three figures. In Matara both Fernando and Silva missed out on centuries. Dilshan, a candidate for Sri Lanka's tour of England and scorer of 82 in the first Test, still has a chance to compete his hundred on the second morning when he restarts on 78 not out.

But Dilshan's innings - a typically stylish and accomplished effort - was overshadowed by that of Fernando in the morning. Called into the side at the last moment after the withdrawal of Avishka Gunawardene with the flu, he grabbed his chance, racing to 86 from 97 balls.

Whilst his opening partner, Ian Daniel, was stuck in first gear, batting 102 minutes for his 14 runs before being caught behind, Fernando blazed away, hitting 14 crisp boundaries over a speedy outfield.

He looked set to complete his ton shortly after the luncheon interval before a mix-up left him short of his crease after Michael Vandort refused his call for a run.

Vandort was the next to depart, caught at slip as he tried to drive an off-break from Steve Tikolo, and Kenya would have felt themselves to have been in a relatively comfortable position with the score being 133 for three.

But Silva and Dilshan quickly tipped the initiative back towards the home side. The pair, who ran between the wickets brilliantly, added a further 117 runs before Silva clipped Collins Obuya to mid-wicket.

Obuya, a tall flat leg-spinner, was the best of the eight bowlers used, picking up two wickets in his 30 overs.

Kenya were then delighted to pick up one further wicket before the close as wicket-keeper Prassana Jayawardene top edged a pull to be caught in the deep.

Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka had made two changes, including Fernando and an extra spin bowler: Rangana Herath. Kenya, meanwhile, included seamer P.J. Ongondo.