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Giles and Kirtley take command

James Kirtley grabs three wickets in five overs to push his claims for a Test place

Close Sri Lanka Board President's XI 142 for 8 (Perera 29*) v England XI

James Kirtley: made the most of his chance with 4 for 19
© Getty Images

James Kirtley bowled himself into contention for a place in next week's first Test at Galle, and Ashley Giles showed a welcome and timely return to form, as England took control on the shortened first day of their warm-up match against a Board President's XI at the Colombo Cricket Club. Play was called off at tea after the now-habitual bank of clouds rolled towards the ground and poured down. But by then, the President's XI had slumped to 142 for 8 after winning the toss.
England began the day like a team desperate to put a dreadful week behind them. Kirtley had been due to fly home with the one-day specialists on Monday, but stayed with the party as cover for James Anderson, whose ankle he had helped to twist during an energetic squash match on Thursday evening. He bustled in from his long run, and required just four legitimate deliveries to claim his first wicket - Michael Vandort lbw for 1 (3 for 1). In fact he might have struck even earlier, but umpire Gamini Dissanayake turned down a stone-dead appeal second ball, when Vandort offered no stroke to one that arced into his pads.
Kirtley was lively and accurate throughout, and his skiddy pace and eager approach provided a passable resemblance to Darren Gough. Chamara Silva edged to Geraint Jones for a 13-ball duck (6 for 2), and Jones added a second catch to his collection when Dhammika Sudarshana drove at a half-volley outside off stump (19 for 3). The Sri Lankans went to lunch at 69 for 3, but Kirtley required just three balls of the second session to take his fourth wicket, as Gareth Batty clung on to a sharp chance in the gully off Russel Arnold, the home side's captain (69 for 4).

The newly unveiled scoreboard at Colombo Cricket Club
© Wisden Cricinfo 2003

Robert Croft, back in England contention after a two-year absence, did not make the best of returns when he reprieved Thilan Samaraweera at third slip. It was a regulation edge off Andrew Flintoff, who is captaining England for the first time in a first-class match, and whether by accident or design, Croft was not called upon to bowl in the first session. Instead he was limited to seven wicketless overs, as Gareth Batty and Giles were given the chance to renew the spin partnership that failed to take off in Bangladesh.
Giles has spent the winter working on a new approach to the wicket, and at last he is showing signs that he has rediscovered his rhythm and balance. He grabbed two wickets in four balls, including a smart stumping by Jones, before dismissing Dilhara Fernando lbw on the stroke of tea. Batty did not go unrewarded either, when Nasser Hussain held on to a regulation bat-pad chance, to end Samaraweera's innings of 32 - the highest score of a piecemeal batting performance.
For Kirtley, the day's success came as a pleasant surprise. "It's been a very simple day for me," he said. "It's probably a game I didn't expect to play in, so the pressure's been off. I'm not here to compete for a place, I'm just here to bowl, and when you're relaxed like that, it can sometimes be your day.
"I'm only here as cover for Jimmy's ankle," he stressed. "When he's fit, that'll be my time to depart, although I might yet try to play Johnno or Hoggy at a game of squash ..."
England 1 Mark Butcher, 2 Nasser Hussain, 3 Graham Thorpe, 4 Chris Read, 5 Andrew Flintoff (capt), 6 Gareth Batty, 7 Ashley Giles, 8 Robert Croft, 9 Geraint Jones (wk), 10 Matthew Hoggard, 11 James Kirtley.
Sri Lanka Board President's XI 1 Michael Vandort, 2 Dhammika Sudarshana, 3 Chamara Silva, 4 Russel Arnold (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Rashan Peiris (wk), 7 Bathiya Perera, 8 Ranil Dhammika, 9 Nandika Ranjith, 10 Chamila Gamage, 11 Dilhara Fernando.