|Wednesday, 26 November 2003|
Important game for both sides at CCC
By Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Interest from Sri Lanka's point of view in the three-day practice game between a Sri Lanka Cricket President's XI and the touring England team starting at the CCC grounds today at 10.30 a.m. will center around fast bowler Dilhara Fernando.
England on their part will be looking to give their six Test specialists who flew in to Colombo last week some useful match practice ahead of Tuesday's first Test at Galle.
Sri Lanka's chairman of selectors Lalith Kaluperuma said: "We are keen to have Dilhara back in the squad. He has bowled fairly well in the domestic competition, but sometimes he tends to bowl a bit too short. He has a good chance of getting into the squad of 15."
Kaluperuma said that the seam and spin combination for the Test will be decided after they had a look at the Galle pitch which is being prepared by former Test bowler Jayananda Warnaweera. On their last tour to Sri Lanka two years ago, England were routed by an innings at Galle with spinners playing the key role, but bounced back at Kandy and SSC to take the series 2-1.
Russel Arnold who will lead the SLC President's XI, Michael Vandort and Thilan Samaraweera are battling for middle-order batting berths. Arnold has not played in a Test for over one year. His last Test appearance was in South Africa where he scored six runs from four innings, which led to him being dropped for the next two series against New Zealand and the West Indies.
Vandort, the tall left-hander has been knocking on the door for a Test recall and was shaping up well for the Sri Lanka 'A' team in South Africa when he suffered a hamstring injury.
He will be looking to add to his two Test appearances he made against Bangladesh at the SSC in 2001 and 2002. Samaraweera, still boasting of a Test average of 74 from 11 Tests is another contender. He is currently averaging over 100 in the on-going Premier trophy tournament for SSC accumulating 301 runs from five matches.
The Sri Lankan middle-order has in recent times have displayed a vulnerability which opposing teams have capitalized on. The poor form of Arnold contributed largely towards it.
England's 12-member squad named for the match comprises their six Test specialists - batsmen Nasser Hussain, Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe, bowlers Matthew Hoggard and Robert Croft and wicket-keeper Gavin Jones. This game will be their only chance of getting any match practice before the start of the Test series.
Andrew Flintoff will captain the side in the absence of Michael Vaughan who is rested along with Marcus Trescothick. Flintoff had earlier captained England in a one-day practice game in Bangladesh.
England's media relations manager Mark Hodgson said that the squad's strength has increased to 17 from 15 as James Kirtley and Richard Johnson have both been retained as cover for injured fast bowlers James Anderson and Steve Harmison.
Hodgson said that Anderson who twisted his right ankle while playing squash last week was doubtful for the first Test, but will be available for selection from the second Test onwards. Harmison who returned home from Bangladesh with a back injury failed a fitness test in England last week and has more or less been ruled out of the Sri Lankan tour.
Meanwhile, four members of the one-day tour party have returned to England - Andrew Strauss, Vikram Solanki, Anthony McGrath and Ian Blackwell.
New scoreboard for CCC
The club hosting the match has plans to make the three days a memorable one for the spectators, especially the supporters of the England team. Barbeque stalls, fresh fruit stalls and marquees for the comfort of the spectators will be part of it.
Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala will officially declare open a new scoreboard at the CCC before the commencement of the match today at 9 a.m. The scoreboard has been constructed for the club by SLC's National Development Centre. The SLC indoor nets occupies the spot where the former scoreboard was constructed.
SRI LANKA CRICKET PRESIDENT'S XI (from): Russel Arnold (captain), Michael Vandort, Dammika Sudarshana, Chamara Silva, Thilan Samaraweera, Bathiya Perera, Rashan Peiris (w/k), Ranil Dhammika, Dilhara Fernando, Chamila Gamage, Nandika Ranjith, Ganganath Ratnayake, Kaushalya de Silva, Charith Jayaweera.
ENGLAND XI (from): Andrew Flintoff (captain), Nasser Hussain, Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe, Paul Collingwood, Gareth Batty, Ashley Giles, Robert Croft, Geraint Jones (w/k), Matthew Hoggard, James Kirtley, Chris Read (w/k).
UMPIRES: Gamini Dissanayake and C.B.C. Rodrigo.
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