Sri Lankans exposed by absence of Muralitharan

Sri Lanka 375 Kent 419-6 dec <i>Match drawn</i>
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The Independent Online

They may have few worries over their batting on the evidence of Saturday's display of firepower, but the shivering Sri Lankan tourists may find things somewhat different on the bowling front.

They may have few worries over their batting on the evidence of Saturday's display of firepower, but the shivering Sri Lankan tourists may find things somewhat different on the bowling front.

Their brilliant off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is going to be sorely missed if it is just for one Test, but if he fails to recover from ligament damage to his left shoulder in time for the rest of Sri Lanka's first full series against England in this country his asbence will be disastrous for the tourists.

Without Murali the seamers are going to bear a heavy burden and yesterday showed just how great a weight that might be, as they conceded a torrent of runs, including a couple of centuries as Kent powered past their first-innings total effortlessly. They conceded a half-century of extras, 40 of them courtesy of 20 no balls. The moral victory was certainly Kent's.

Ruchira Perera was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 45, but the performance of Ishara Amerasinghe, who arrived boasting a first-class bowling average of 19.49, was disappointing. He conceded 83 runs off nine overs, although that return was better than Charitha Fernando's none for 119 from the dozen or so overs he sent down.

It is a moot point whether there was a frisson of anxiety in the tourists' dressing-room when Fernando pulled up after the last ball of the match clutching his left hamstring – an injury that later turned out to be cramp.

There was not much threat from the spinners either. Thilan Samaraweera and the former Kent favourite Aravinda De Silva are not exactly going to set the England batsmen quaking. And as for the fielding, it was half-hearted at best, downright incompetent at worst, and, considering nine of this side played a part in the drubbing handed out to Pakistan just last month, it was pretty poor fare.

Perhaps the chill of the afternoon contributed. De Silva admitted that he has been sporting five layers of clothing to keep out the cold. If his team-mates were encumbered with similar bulk it would partly explain their clumsiness. Whatever, the Kent batsmen thrived. David Fulton scored a century in a brisk enough 117 balls, although that was nothing compared with Matthew Fleming, who fairly flayed the tourists for the fastest hundred of the season off just 66 balls. He scattered reputations and balls all around the ground with three sixes and a dozen fours, and for good measure Geraint Jones scored his maiden half-century on only his second first-class appearance.

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