Cricket: De Silva keeps out a limited Leicestershire

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The Independent Online
Sri Lanka 143-5 Leicestershire 95 Sri Lanka win by 48 runs

IN THEORY, a match against the champions of England should have been the ideal way for the world champions to sharpen up before Friday's meeting with the World Cup's host nation at Lord's, but a Leicestershire side lacking Chris Lewis and Mike Kasprowicz in addition to Alan Mullally and Vince Wells failed to stretch Sri Lanka in a contest trimmed to 25 overs a side.

Not that the Sri Lankans had any complaints. After a series of downpours lasting long enough for England already to have won before play could start here, they were thankful even for half a game.

What's more, the need to score rapidly on a slow, typically English pitch probably suited them down to the ground. Committed to the bold style for which they have been famed since winning the World Cup three years ago, the Sri Lankans engaged attacking mode from the start and, though timing was a problem, the experience of Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva ensured that the hosts were set a demanding target.

"It might sometimes be difficult at the start when the ball is moving about but we will not change our style," Duleep Mendis, the Sri Lankan manager, said. "It is the way we are committed to playing and we have no plans to adopt a more cautious approach."

Romesh Kaluwitharana might have wished he had been a little more circumspect after skying James Ormond to midwicket in only the second over, but Jayasuriya's assault on the Leicestershire bowling proved more successful and there were 54 runs already on the board by the time he was out in the eighth over.

The prolific opener hit 36 off only 28 balls, hitting five fours as well as a towering six off David Millns during a 16-run over by Leicestershire's pace spearhead. Having conceded 13 in his first over, including seven in wides, Millns' banishment to the outfield came as no surprise.

Ormond, benefiting from the inevitable mis-hits, finished with a respectable 3 for 24 and Jon Dakin a commendable 1 for 13 but with Wells and Mullally required by England and Lewis and Kasprowicz rested, the home side's attack lacked bite. The Sri Lankans mostly got themselves out, although the catch by which Ben Smith removed Mervyn Atapattu one-handed at mid-off was a worthy effort.

De Silva was not without his hairy moments - Millns did catch him, but the wrong side of the boundary rope - but his unbeaten 54 off 65 balls (three fours and two sixes), supported by a late flourish from Atapattu, stretched the total beyond Leicestershire's range.

Missing the fireworks Lewis might have offered, Leicestershire's reply was fairly pathetic. There was no Muttiah Muralitharan - rested along with the captain, Arjuna Ranatunga - but in his absence Chaminda Vaas, the left-armer who has become the thrust of Sri Lanka's seam attack, made good use of the conditions.

His opening delivery swung enough to leave Darren Maddy flummoxed and three wickets among Leicestershire's subsiding tail gave him a return of 4 for 14 from four overs. Only Iain Sutcliffe and Paul Nixon offered significant resistance and Ben Smith, driving loosely to cover, was as disappointing as Maddy given that both were considered for England's squad.