The intensity of the cricket may not have pulled in the bands nor resulted in a gyrating frenzy in the stands, but the sprinkling of `baila' loving spectators in Moratuwa at least had the satisfaction of watching their team take a one-nil lead in the three-match unofficial One-Day International series against Pakistan A at De Soysa Stadium today.
Having lost the three-match Test series in Galle the Sri Lankan selectors picked a stronger squad for the one-day series, including seven full internationals in today's team. They proved too strong for Pakistan and won comfortably by 70 runs after their middle order collapsed in the latter part of their innings.
Sri Lanka, batting first having lost the toss, were guided to very useful 244 in their 50 overs thanks to an unusually reserved half-century by Avishka Gunawardene, who deservedly picked up the best batsmen and man of the match award for his troubles.
Though dropped three times during his 104 ball innings, his innings represented another strong argument for an increasingly compelling case for a return to the national side. He was by far the best batsmen on show today and was the only player to pass fifty.
Speaking afterwards he said: "I have been batting really well recently, perhaps better than anytime in my career. Consistency-wise I am certainly in the form of my life. Hopefully the selectors will take notice."
Gunawardene's relative caution may have been the result of his eleventh inclusion in the national squad last night, but it most probably stemmed from a pitch freshened by some early morning moisture and seemingly two-paced in pace. Nevertheless, his opening 69 run opening partnership with Shantha Kalavitigoda, was by no means sluggish, coming at a run a ball.
Yasir Arafat then pegged backed the innings with two wickets. He bowled Kalavitigoda with a full-length inswinger and ended an awkward looking innings from Jehan Mubarak with another full-length delivery that trapped the left-hander leg-before wicket.
Poor Tillakaratne Dilshan then wasted another valuable chance to impress the national selectors when he was bowled through the gate third ball, by a googly from Danish Kaneria in the leg spinners first over.
Kumar Sangakkara steadied the innings with a 61-run partnership with Gunawardene. Clearly not one hundred per cent happy with his form, he struggled to time the ball and failed to hit a boundary in his 34 from 78 balls. He will though be happier for his time in the middle. Monday will provide a further opportunity to regain his fluency before the triangular series.
Gunawardene was the fourth man to be dismissed, to become Azad Hussain's first victim of tour. The 15-year-old left arm spinner, who is so fresh faced that his tender age is actually believable, bowled very creditably in first outing and proved to be Pakistan's most economical bowler.
After the fall of Gunawardene, Chamara Silva injected some momentum into the last 15 overs of the Sri Lankan innings, scoring 37 from 39 balls, especially when joined by Suresh Perera, who clumped 20 from just 12 balls. Thilan Samaraweera and Dinusha Fernando ensured a good total with a unbeaten 33-run partnership at the death.
If Sri Lanka started cautiously then Pakistan's openers were pedestrian. They scored just 35 runs from the first ten overs and were behind the pace thereafter. Taufiq Umar (47), restored to his preferred opening position, and Imran Farhat (29) added 49 for the first wicket before Suresh Perera had him caught at mid on in his first over.
Qaisser Abbas (9) was promoted up the order and tried manfully to raise the tempo, but was well caught by a tumbling Sajeewa Weerakoon on the long on boundary off Samaraweera in the 18th over. When Perera snatched his second wicket, that of Hasan Raza - the key to the Pakistani batting line-up - who was caught behind, Pakistan were 73 for three with their backs to the wall.
A 57-run stand for the fourth wicket raised hopes, but the dismissal of Taufiq Umar, bowled round his legs as he tried to sweep the part-time off spin of Jehan Mubarak, soon squashed them terminally, as Pakistan's obliging batsmen offered a succession of catches to Sri Lanka's grateful outfielders, Pakistan losing their last seven wickets for just 44 runs.