Sri Lanka’s destructive performance against Sussex would not have provided much encouragement to England before tomorrow’s Twenty20 international and the one-day series starting at the end of this week. Lasith Malinga, the tourists’ returning captain in this format, led a disciplined bowling display on a batting-friendly wicket, then their opening batsmen compiled a century stand in just seven overs.
The Sri Lankans would have preferred a stiffer test before facing England, as they easily exploited a weakened Sussex side, but it was no surprise that Chris Adams was smiling on the team’s balcony at the end of proceedings. Adams, the Sri Lanka batting consultant formerly of Sussex, was returning to a place he refers to as a “spiritual home” and described the run chase by Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kithuruwan Vithanage as “special”.
“It’s the first time [this tour] that the lads really stepped up the intensity,” Adams said. “And the bowling and fielding was excellent. To knock off the target in nine overs was incredible. We’ve seen something special.”
A meatier target than 127 might have been more useful, but Malinga managed to take 2 for 20 from his four overs and Thisara Perera claimed 2 for 13. Malinga, rested against Kent after arriving in England on Thursday from the IPL, made his first appearance of the tour. Vithanage said: “He is one of the legends of Sri Lanka and T20. When he’s here, it gives us big morale. The opposition feels pressure when they see him.”
It has been a promising start for Adams in his new role. He said that one day he would love to return to Sussex, but his focus is very much on Sri Lanka, and helping them to overcome the loss of Paul Farbrace, their former coach, to England. The Sri Lankan management’s most notable selection decision here, aside from playing Malinga, was to rest Angelo Mathews.
After Sussex had won the toss and opted to bat, Malinga struck with his second ball as he had Luke Wells caught at gully by Dilshan. The home team recovered from that early setback to reach 65 for 1 from 10.3 overs, but hopes of building on that platform were damaged when Michael Yardy and Rory Hamilton-Brown departed in quick succession.
Matt Machan was in excellent form, though, holding together the Sussex innings, and he reached his fifty with a six over the head of Sachithra Senanayake, the bowler. His colleagues were not offering sufficient support, though. Machan eventually fell for 63 in the 18th over and, after a poor finish to the innings, Sussex had a total that never looked likely to trouble the tourists.
The tone for the reply was set when Vithanage struck a four, then a six, in the opening three balls, bowled by off-spinner Ashar Zaidi. Sussex never recovered and Sri Lanka began collecting boundaries with embarrassing ease. Dot balls by now were being cheered sarcastically.
Dilshan’s fifty came first from just 18 balls. His partner also managed that landmark from 22 balls. Vithanage, a naturally aggressive player, said: “I was batting as opener for the national team for the first time, so it was nice. We’ll be hoping to get a wicket like this for the T20 at The Oval. Dilshan was getting boundaries but, at the same time, he was rotating the strike.
“As a team, we’re proud to say we won the T20 World Cup. We showed what we are about here.”