Chaminda Mendis held court today on the first day of the three day game against Kenya. Despite the heavy rains that drowned the Nairobi grounds and the change of venue, the Sri Lankans welcomed the advantage of playing in similar climate conditions to those at home. Ranjith Fernando, the manager of the A Side welcomed the change but also expressed some disappointment in the fact that they did not play on any of the Nairobi grounds as the different conditions would have proven to be a worthwhile experience for his side.
Sri Lanka won the toss and skipper Kumar Dharmasena did not hesitate in electing to bat first. The reasoning was simple, the pitch was a perfect batting track promising plenty of runs. The logical thing to do was to bat.
This year has seen Dharmasena take a backseat from the national team which is currently playing a series in South Africa. After re-engineering his action which had him taken out from the team. According to Fernando, this tournament will prove to be an important stepping stone in Dharmasena's attempt to get back into the national squad on a more permanent basis
Opening the batting for the Sri Lankans, were Mendis and Michael Van Dort.
What's unusual about the Mombasa Sports Club ground is that it has a mango tree that sits just within the square leg boundary of the ground, which reminded Ranjith Fernando of the Canterbury ground in Kent where many an important match has been played.
This tour was the first for the lanky new comer Van Dort, who loomed over the wicket with the most graceful and challenging presence. A very promising prospect for future Sri Lankan cricket. Although out on an LBW, the young man played a dazzling yet brief innings, hammering out some gracious boundaries! It was fun watching the left handed lanky Sri Lankan's strokeplay which saw him deliver some stunning boundaries.
The latter part of the day saw the docile track taking some slow turn which seemed to taking it's toll on the Sri Lankans and passing the advantage to the Kenyans. After a morning session where their fielding seemed rather lethargic, they began to come alive. Despite the blazing sun, a strong breeze seemed to renew their spirits and containing the score seemed to be the play of the afternoon. The difference was a marked one, with 100 for 1 in 26 overs to 111 for 2 from 35.
Mendis remained collected and consistent in his batting, playing it safe without taking many risks putting up a superb performance
Midway through the afternoon session saw leg break bowler Collins Obuya and off spinner Steve Tikolo dominate the field with some tight bowling. It saw Collins bowled Mendis who scored a glorious 90 runs. With the Kenyans getting their line and length together, their consistency seemed to be the key to keeping the Sri Lankan run rate down.
At the end of the first day Sri Lanka had an impressive 274. Team manager, Ranjith Fernando ended the day on a high note, "We're quite pleased with the way things went. It was a limb-loosener after four days of travelling. The batsmen acquitted themselves well on a pitch which was rather slow but good for batting."