Icy rain and a chill, unseasonal wind greeted the Sri Lanka tourists at Canterbury for their tour opener against Kent yesterday and, naturally enough, there was not a ball bowled, not even time to get the covers off between the wintry showers and eventually everyone just gave up.
It was a shame because a sizeable crowd had braved the weather, anticipating a few fireworks from the uninhibited Sri Lankan batsmen, who arrived here at the beginning of the week. Given that they have a few players in their squad who have never experienced English conditions, and, with the first Test against England at Lord's barely three weeks away, every hour off the field could prove costly. "On wickets like these," said their captain, Sanath Jayasuriya, "it will seam around and the ball will not come on to the bat. It is difficult at the start, but if our players can play a few games they will get used to it."
To help the tourists to cope, they have hired a batting consultant, the former South African Test batsman Barry Richards, who thrilled English spectators throughout the 1970s while playing for Hampshire, and proved a master of English conditions. He has been fine-tuning the opener Jayasuriya, who has been the scourge of attacks all over the world and it is reasonable to suppose that he did not need additions to his armoury. However, Richards thinks differently.
"You don't want to change Jayasuriya. He is an exciting player," he explained. "What you want to try to do is give him a few more options and just widen his scoring opportunities.
"You have to get him to utilise the whole field as opposed to the one area – backward of point – where we all know he is very strong." And has the specialist coaching worked? "I think he plays a lot straighter now. He knows if the opposition are blocking one area he can organise himself to exploit another area." England have been warned.Reuse content