February 16, 2002

Kenya left facing uphill struggle to avert series whitewash


Sri Lanka A's batsmen strengthened their side's grip on the final unofficial Test at Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium and at the end of the third day Kenya looked unlikely to avert a series whitewash despite a solid start to their second innings.

Throughout the first two days Kenya displayed greater fight than they had done in the first two Tests, but to save the final Test on a wearing fourth day pitch they will need to produce their most resolute performance of the tour.

Kenya's openers, Kennedy Otieno (31) and Ravindu Shah (27), started their second innings well, holding Sri Lanka A's spinners at bay and surviving unscathed the 19 overs till the close of play. They re-start on Sunday morning on 61 without loss.

They predicament could have been worse if Sri Lanka A had not erred on the side of caution with their declaration, waiting for a full hour after tea before calling it a day.

By which time the hosts had amassed 361 for eight after a sturdy middle order performance from Upul Chandana (73), Prassana Jayawardene (75 not out) and Muthudalige Pushpakumara (45), which provided Kenya with an unassailable 404 run target.

Sri Lanka A posted such an imposing target despite the quick loss of their two remaining specialist batsmen in the morning.

Tillakaratne Dilshan (8) feathered to the wicket-keeper off medium pacer Joseph Angara in the second over and Chamara Silva (17) followed him back to the dressing room soon after as misjudged a quick single (142 for five).

The double strike prompted a soporific passage of play, as Sri Lanka A consolidated and Kenya's bowlers, buoyed by their morning success, bowled with surprising discipline.

But Chandana, stooped over his bat like a young Azharuddin, slowly raised the tempo, pushing the Kenyan fielders hard with his whippet-like running between the wickets and occasionally skipping down the wicket to loft a drive.

Jayawardene hung on adhesively at the other end, working the ball efficiently into the gaps, as he tried to persuade the national selectors that he is not only the most gifted gloveman in the country, but also a useful lower batsman.

His unbeaten 75 will have no doubt helped his cause for a berth on Sri Lanka 's three-Test tour of England. His stance is awkward and strokeplay mechanical, but he concentrated hard and placed a high premium on his wicket - highly valued attributes for this Sri Lankan side.

Soon, Chandana and Jayawardene had taken the game well out of the reach of the Kenyans. The pair added 92 before Chandana tried to launch his second straight six of the day.

But Pushpakamura, a 20-year-old all-rounder with great promise, carried on where Chandana had left off and the scoreboard ticked along in the hour before tea.

With Jayawardene reaching his fifty just before the break, a teatime declaration was anticipated, but Sri Lanka choose to carry on despite having already established a 343 run lead.

After tea, Pushpakumara perished whilst driving through the covers and Pulasthi Gunaratne was soon trapped lbw by Angara, before Rangana Herath produced an entertaining cameo, hitting 26 from just balls.