Sri Lanka began their final preparations for the 2011 World Cup in grand style as they beat the Netherlands by 156 runs. Runs from all the batsmen and the wickets shared by the bowlers is a scorecard Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakarra would have hoped to have seen at the start of play.
This game being a warm up meant that both teams had an opportunity to give 14 of their players a run on the park in their endeavours to find the best 11 for the tournament proper.
Having won the toss early in the day Sangakarra did not hesitate in giving his batsmen first use of the wicket. A decision perfectly understood considering the lack of batting practice the team has had in the recent past due to bad weather. Openers T.M. Dilshan and Upul Tharanga opened the innings for Sri Lanka. From the start Dilshan took a liking to the Netherlands bowlers as he raced to his 50 in 42 deliveries, stroking 10 boundaries on the way to the milestone. The hundred for Sri Lanka was brought up in 13.4 overs. Not to be outdone by his partner Tharanga also played an entertaining 47 off 54 balls. He was dismissed in the 18th over off the bowling of Pieter Seelaar, with the score on 117. If there were any questions on the opening combination for Sri Lanka, this partnership would have clearly answered the questions. This was the Netherlands first wicket, and after the battering the openers gave them their hearts would have lifted when they saw Thilan Samaraweera, a conventional middle order player, stride out to the middle. Their relief was short lived as he too got into the scoring quickly.
Dilshan looked as though he was set for another hundred as he began to settle down and play the bowlers with a little more respect. However, he was dismissed in the 27th over off the bowling of Adeel Raja for 70. The partnership for the 2nd week was 50. The spattering of the crowd that had turned up for this game gave him a standing ovation, no doubt expecting this to have been just a preview for the main stage in a week s time. Angelo Mathews and Samaraweera continued to do what Sangakarra wanted from his batsmen, occupy the crease and build partnerships. This partnership worth 60 runs coming off only 54 deliveries. Mathews looking to be aggressor was not afraid to come down the track to the bowlers. Having scored 60 runs off 59 deliveries Samaraweera chose to retire allowing Chamara Silva an opportunity in the middle. Shortly after Samaraweera s retirement Mathews was dismissed caught behind off the bowling of Mudassar Bukhari. The two new men at the wicket, Chamara Silva and Chamara Kapugedara, will most likely be battling for the number 6 position. Both players looked to consolidate at the start picking off singles, yet continuing to put the bad balls away. A partnership of 94 between these two saw Silva reach 54 off just 33 deliveries. The Netherland bowlers struggled to keep it tight as the innings came into its latter half; the fielders were also beginning to look tired under the hot sun. 50 runs came off the last 5 overs as these two and Kulasekara all showed that they can play the big shots at the end. At the end of the innings all the Sri Lankan batsmen, barring Mathews got starts they can be happy with. The Netherlands s bowlers were all punished with Pieter Seelaar coming out as their most economical bowler with figures of 10 overs, no maidens, 44 runs for 1 wicket. Despite the total being a mammoth one, the Netherlands fielding did their team proud as they were energetic and enthusiastic on the field. Despite this as the day wore on the mistakes did creep in. Their bowlers started off badly but began to improve in the latter half. T.M Dilshan top scored with 78 runs off 78 deliveries.
In response the Netherlands scored 195. Tom de Grooth top scored with a classy 76, showing that the Netherlands batsmen are capable to play at this level. Despite regularly loosing wickets, Peter Borren s suggestion that their batting was the strength was supported by this effort. They did however appear to need more time to come to terms with the conditions of the wickets. The Sri Lankan bowlers did their jobs as the fast men bowled with pace and swing early on. In the spin department, it was a standoff between
Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis for the backup spinners slot. Herath won that battle comfortably as he returned figures of 4.3 overs, 1 maiden, 11 runs, and 2 wickets. Despite Mendis picking up a wicket late on he failed to regularly trouble the batsmen, and against a stronger line up would struggle. Dilhara Fernando was the pick of the pace bowlers picking up 4 wickets in 9 overs. Despite being slightly on the expensive side he bowled with pace and used his slower ball well. The only concern for Sangakarra coming from this effort is the lack of penetrative power of Kulasekara. It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka will choose to go into the tournament with 4 wicket-taking bowlers or choose Kulasekara who can keep an end quiet. The fielding of Sri Lanka was of the standard expected by the team, as catches were taken and the ground fielding was on the mark. Most importantly despite this being a warm up game the players looked focussed and energetic.
Overall this game allowed Sri Lanka the opportunity to test its bench strength and examine a potential playing 11. All the batsmen stood up in the absence of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra. The back-up bowlers performed with Herath and Dilhara being the pick of the bowlers. The only apparent concern for Sri Lanka is which 11 to go with when the tournament begins next Sunday. For the Netherlands, this was the first outing in the sub-continent in a few years. Their bowlers looked unfamiliar with the conditions early on bowling too short, or over-correcting and bowling too full. As the innings progressed they began to look more comfortable and settled. Their fielding was exemplary early on; as the day progressed and it go hotter they began to make the few odd mistakes. Their commitment remained throughout the 50 overs. Their batting was led by Grooth, however a few others got starts whilst their star player Ryan ten Doeschate missed out. For the Netherlands this game was a valuable lesson in how to play in sub-continent conditions. For Sri Lanka it is a little too soon to judge the team, considering the opposition which they played. However, it is an encouraging start.
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