President's XI 218-3 v England: Panesar and Swann lack venom as cobras upstage rusty attack

England endured the full cultural experience on their first day of competitive cricket in Sri Lanka yesterday. A hot, humid morning and a benign pitch ensured that Michael Vaughan's bowlers toiled after the captain had lost the toss, and by the time a violent thunderstorm had deposited its load, leaving the outfield resembling a paddyfield, the Sri Lankan Board President's XI had moved effortlessly to 218 for 3.

In between, on the stroke of lunch, there was the spectacle of several England players rushing to a corner of the ground where a couple of cobras had been seen basking in a small area of scrub. Reports on how big the snakes were vary. Graeme Swann, the England spinner, said that a player rushed in to the changing room claiming one was eight metres long. More reliable sources suggested that two metres was a fairer assessment.

Whatever the size of the serpent, in a country with the highest snakebite fatality rate in the world – two people are reportedly killed here by snakes every day – no England player would have been keen to fetch the ball within the vicinity of the sighting.

It would be unfair to say that the reptiles were the most venomous beings on show because England's seamers worked hard and bowled pretty well. Ryan Sidebottom was the pick, mixing up his bowling yet keeping an excellent line. Sidebottom beat the bat on several occasions and deserved more than a solitary wicket. The left-arm seamer was warned for running on the pitch in his follow-through. An inspection showed that he had transgressed on several occasions and it is something he has to watch because Test umpires are more vigilant.

Matthew Hoggard was steady without ever looking penetrative and in the afternoon session there was the slightly worrying sight of him losing his run-up on four consecutive occasions. James Anderson produced something of a mixed bag and Stuart Broad was aggressive, taking the opening wicket with a well-directed bouncer. But there was very little in the pitch for any of England's fast men. Stephen Harmison turned up to meet his team-mates after unpacking his bags at the hotel and his arrival coincided with England taking two quick wickets. The fast, bouncy pitches of South Africa will feel like a distant memory when he straps his boots on and bowls here either today or tomorrow.

The major disappointment for England was the bowling of their spinners. On a surface that offered assistance, Monty Panesar and Swann would have expected to create far more problems than they did. Swann conceded 65 runs in his 12 overs and Panesar was struck for five fours in his opening over.

Panesar had one moment of success, when Tillekaratne Dilshan mis-hit an attempted blow down the ground and chipped a straightforward catch to deepish cover point.

Dilshan is not the only member of the Board XI trying to impress the selectors. The retirement of Marvan Atapattu means that an opening spot is now available and Upul Tharanga could not have done more to show that it should go to him. Tharanga batted beautifully, offering a straight bat when the bowling was straight and cutting anything loose for four. The left-hander closed the day unbeaten on 92 and he will be looking to bat for at least another session, too.

Chamara Kapugedera made his Test debut against England last summer aged 19 and he is an exciting batsman. He was dropped on 36 by Alastair Cook in the gully, one of three shelled in a rusty fielding display, but he played several sumptuous shots including a huge straight six off Swann.

"It was a frustrating day for Monty and myself," admitted Swann. "When you know you are playing on a pitch that is taking turn and you can't get your rhythm right or land the ball where you want it is frustrating."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?