<
>

A rainy opener

Tillakaratne Dilshan guided Sri Lanka early on AFP

Choice of game
Opening night of the Sri Lanka Premier League. After a false start last year, and so many obstacles, it was nice to see the tournament get underway. I was curious to see how Sri Lankan fans would react to the new tournament. The prospect of seeing Kandurata, with their dangerous line-up, take on Tillakaratne Dilshan's Basnahira team, featuring some top-class bowlers, was exciting.

Team supported
All the teams have some good players in their ranks, but since I was born and raised in the Basnahira (Western) province, I rooted for Basnahira Cricket Dundee, in spite of their really awkward name.

Key performer
Dilshan wasn't in the best of form during the recent ODI and Twenty20 series against India, but the opening night of the SLPL certainly belonged to him. His explosive innings lifted Basnahira to a daunting score, after which he came back to pick up two wickets, take a catch and inflict a run-out. It seemed as if he had a point to prove, and was intense and pumped up through the game.

One thing I'd have changed
Cricket in Sri Lanka is normally associated with rain. No exception at the SLPL. It was frustrating to wait in the stands for the game to commence, and when it did, it was unsurprising to find out that it was curtailed. It was a bit one-sided since Kandurata crawled for the first two to three overs. In such short game, a side cannot recover from a slow start.

Face-off I relished
Thisara Perera v his Sri Lankan team mates: Having seen Perera bat really well, especially against Pakistan in recent times, I was curious to see how he would handle his own national team-mates. He looked at ease against both Dilshan and Rangana Herath, striking two fours and a six off Dilshan and a boundary off Herath.

Dilshan v Sohail Tanvir: Tanvir bowled well against Dilshan during the recent ODI series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Unfortunately, tonight Dilshan faced only five balls from Tanvir, and scored one run.

Wow moment
Tanvir's first over was wayward but he managed to swing the ball prodigiously and succeeded in dismissing Daniel Smith, who looked out of depth. Tanvir's first spell looked threatening but he went for 18 runs in his last over.

Close encounter
Before the start of the game, the Kandurata players warmed up and played football just below our tier. Some guys were shouting for Perera, and being the nice guy he is, he obliged by waving to them.

Shot of the day
The second six Dilshan hit off Dilhara Lokuhettige was big, powerful and sweet-sounding.

Crowd meter
The crowd was sparse, but considering the obstacles that the SLPL faced - the cancelled 2011 season and a lot of negative remarks by many factions - the turnout was decent. There was the usual Papare music and a cheerful atmosphere. The spectators did enjoy themselves.

Biggest cheer of the day
Lasith Malinga, Perera and Dishan all received loud cheers whenever they batted or bowled. Shahid Afridi too seemed to be a huge favourite with the crowd. But the biggest cheer of the day was for Kumar Sangakkara, when he was shown on the giant screen.

Twenty20s v ODIs
This is a difficult one for me. I grew up on a diet of Test and ODI cricket, and I still love those formats, but I also like T20s. I don't agree with people who say T20 does not require skill, and to be honest, I haven't had the time to watch an entire day's play of a Test or a full ODI for a very long time. T20 is a more practical format, without a doubt.

Entertainment
Contemporary hits were played along with a few popular local tracks. The cheerleaders, nowadays compulsory for T20 cricket, were there as well. I felt sorry for a couple of them when they did somersaults on the soggy outfield during the rain delay. The absence of the ear-splitting vuvuzelas was very welcome.

Overall
Dilshan thrilled the crowd with some audacious strokeplay, and later on Brad Hodge joined in the fun. It was great to see well-known international players like Scott Styris, Hodge and Charl Langeveldt rub shoulders with upcoming local players like Dimuth Karunarathna. The rain was a spoiler, and Kandurata's approach was mediocre. A bigger crowd would have been better, but I guess Sri Lankan fans are a bit sceptical at the moment. Given some time, I think, the fans will slowly get used to a high-level domestic league.

Marks out of 10
6. Rain, a dour batting display by Kandurata, and a sparse crowd probably took away quite a bit of the shine.