Kirtley's dazzling display adds to selection dilemma

Sri Lanka President's XI 142-8 v England

Angus Fraser
Thursday 27 November 2003 01:00

One of England's main objectives during their final warm-up game before next week's first Test was to clear up any lingering doubts over the attack they use in Galle. However, following James Kirtley's excellent display of swing bowling here, they will be more confused than ever.

In the 10 overs that the Sussex fast bowler was called into action for before rain stopped play, Kirtley not only reminded the selectors of what he is capable of but also put forward a strong case for playing against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

A quick look at the scoreboard may give the impression that this match is being played against a weak side. This was the case in Bangladesh when the poor quality of the opposition made it hard to measure just how well a player had performed. But yesterday's four-wicket burst, against a side containing five players with Test experience, cannot be ignored by Michael Vaughan, even if the England captain was following events from the comfort of the team's hotel.

Kirtley could easily have had five or six wickets but for a local umpire, who turned down one of the most convincing lbw shouts any of those present will have seen in a long time, and Graham Thorpe, who dropped a catch at first slip.

If James Anderson had not twisted his ankle playing squash - against Kirtley - a week ago the 28 year-old would now be sitting in Sussex trying to keep out the cold. Colombo may be on the coast but this is all it has in common with Brighton in November. Iced water, and lots of it, was the drink required on a scorching morning, not hot tea.

"This was a fairly simple day for me because it was a game I did not expect to play in," said Kirtley. "I am very grateful for the opportunity but the only reason I am here is as cover for Jimmy [Anderson]. I am not trying to compete or do anything and the pressure was very much off me. On days like this as a bowler - when you relax - things work for you."

One of the other notable performers on a productive day was Ashley Giles. Though wickets have been scarce for the Warwickshire spinner in the last year, Giles was always the likeliest of the three slow-bowlers playing in this match to gain selection in the first Test.

The variety that comes with being a left-arm spinner helps, but Giles still needed to convince the selectors he was capable of taking wickets as well as offering control. And this he did when he claimed three scalps in the afternoon.

The spinner that joins Giles in England's Test XI will depend on who out of Gareth Batty and Robert Croft impresses most in the remaining two days of this game. After taking a wicket, a good catch and being unfortunate not to be awarded with a run-out following a direct hit from midwicket Batty looks to be ahead of Croft, who had to wait until the middle of the second session before he got a bowl, but the Welshman could make up the ground in the second innings.

After having their request to make the match a 12-a-side game turned down, England picked Chris Read - even though he was not going to keep wicket - and omitted Paul Collingwood from the final XI. This was so that Read could have a rest from his duties behind the stumps but still get in some batting practice.

Handing over the gloves to Geraint Jones may be a decision Read lives to regret because the Kent wicketkeeper- batsman had an excellent first day behind the stumps. With a first-class batting average of 44.3 Jones is rated as the best batsman among England's glovemen, but until now the quality of his keeping has been questioned. Read may feel under pressure after watching Jones complete an impressive day's work with a stumping and two good catches.

* Steve Waugh, who on Tuesday announced he will retire as Australia's Test captain in January, believes Ricky Ponting is the right man to succeed him. Waugh said yesterday: "I don't think I'm talking out of school to say Ricky is the one that will take over. He's done a great job with the one-day side and he's been groomed to take over and I'd be very surprised if someone else got ahead of him in the queue."

Sri Lanka Cricket President's XI won the toss


M G Vandort lbw b Kirtley 1

T K D Sudarshana c Jones b Kirtley 5

L P C Silva c Jones b Kirtley 0

*R P Arnold c Batty b Kirtley 27

T T Samaraweera c Hussain b Batty 32

W M B Perera not out 29

ÝT R Peiris lbw b Giles 27

D G R Dhammika st Jones b Giles 0

C R D Fernando lbw b Giles 5

Extras (lb7 nb9) 16

Total (for 8, 58.1 overs) 142

Fall: 1-3, 2-6, 3-19, 4-69, 5-86, 6-130, 7-130, 8-142.

To Bat: M K G C P Lakshitha, P N Ranjith.

Bowling: Hoggard 11-3-22-0; Kirtley 10-2-19-4; Giles 14.1-8-23-3; Flintoff 5-0-18-0; Batty 11-2-30-1; Croft 7-1-23-0.

ENGLAND: N Hussain, M A Butcher, G P Thorpe, C M W Read, *A Flintoff, G J Batty, A F Giles, R D B Croft, ÝG O Jones, M J Hoggard, R Clarke.

Umpires: A G Dissanayake and C B C Rodrigo.

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