Opening batsman Lahiru Thirimanne warmed up for his likely Test debut next week with a century as he and Kumar Sangakkara enjoyed valuable time in the middle on the first day of Sri Lanka’s tour match against Essex at Chelmsford.
Twenty-one-year-old Thirimanne is set to replace injured captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has a broken thumb, for the final npower Test at the Rose Bowl, which the tourists must win to square the series.
Thirimanne today retired out on 104, having shared a 152-run second-wicket stand with former skipper Sangakkara, who stepped down after the World Cup.
Sangakkara, who is set to lead Sri Lanka at Southampton, was unbeaten on 148 in a total of 324 for four from 78 overs on a rain-interrupted day.
It was Sangakkara’s first score in excess of 26 in seven innings on a tour which he joined late from the Indian Premier League.
After Thilan Samaraweera – Sri Lanka’s captain in this game – won the toss, Thirimanne made an uncertain start and was dropped at third slip by Tom Westley when surprised by the additional bounce of left-arm seamer Reece Topley.
It proved a costly miss as Thirmanne found his touch to score freely either side of opening partner Tharanga Paranavitana being caught behind on 27 off Tymal Mills, a product of Essex’s academy.
That wicket fell at 71 and paved the way for Sangakkara to inflict punishment on an inexperienced Essex attack that included Tom Craddock, a 21-year-old leg-spinner on a two-month trial. Mills, Craddock and wicketkeeper Ben Foakes were making their first-class debuts.
Sangakkara never looked in trouble while underlining his class with some flowing strokes against both pace and spin, and reached his half-century with the aid of nine boundaries. In all, he struck 23 fours plus a six and fellow left-hander Thirimanne hit 15 fours.
Topley suffered a knee injury – trying to cut off a boundary – and took no further part, but Essex did have something to celebrate late in the day when the medium pace of captain Ravi Bopara yielded two wickets in an over.
Bopara removed Dinesh Chandimal for 16 and Samaraweera for a second-ball duck – both to fine catches by Tim Phillips at second slip. Phillips was only playing due to Adam Wheater sustaining a hand injury in the nets this morning.