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By Julian Guyer
Northampton: June 8, 2014
Sri Lanka‘s Lahiru Thirimanne was in positive mood ahead of Thursday’s first Test against England after the tourists’ warm-up match against Northamptonshire ended in a draw. Although Sri Lanka have won individual Tests in England, they’ve never won a series of more than one match.
But Thirimanne said he believed all that could change in a two-Test clash at Lord’s and Headingley, where the pitches are likely to be much different to the slow, low and spin-friendly surfaces Sri Lanka are used to in the sub-continent.
“Confidence levels are really high,” Thirimanne, captain against Northamptonshire in the absence of the rested Angelo Mathews, told reporters after Sunday’s final day of four at Northampton.
“We haven’t had much luck in the past, we want to win a Test series here so that is the main concern.”
Left-hander Thirimanne, dropped first ball, made a career-best 156 and opener Kaushal Silva 152 retired not out in an imposing first innings total of 558 for eight declared.
Northamptonshire responded with 345 all out featuring Rob Keogh’s 120. Sri Lanka, after deciding against enforcing the follow-on, were 99 for four when a draw was agreed.
Paceman Dhammika Prasad (four for 68) and off-spinner Dilruwan Perera (four for 92), both battling for a Test place, were Sri Lanka’s most successful bowlers.
The often injury-prone Prasad played the last of his 12 Tests over a year ago but Thirimanne, Sri Lanka’s tour vice-captain, indicated the lively 31-year-old seamer was in line for a return at Lord’s.
“Batters had the chance to bat through the innings and the bowlers did well, because it was not a bowling-friendly wicket,” Thirimanne said.
“Dhammika bowled really well, in good areas and with some good pace.
“We have some experienced bowlers but we don’t have that extra pace.”
Thirimanne added, “It’s really tough (in England) because this is the early summer and we haven’t had that much practice.
“We have to take 20 wickets to win matches, that’s the main thing we have to work on.”
For Northamptonshire, struggling at the foot of the First Division of the County Championship with five defeats from six matches, Keogh’s innings — the first first-class hundred by one of their batsmen this season — was especially encouraging.
The 22-year-old’s century came in only his second game back for the Midlands county since he had his finger broken by Yorkshire fast bowler Liam Plunkett, in England’s squad for Lord’s, during a pre-season match.
“It was an international attack getting ready for a Test match so it was nice (to score a hundred),” said Keogh, whose only other century at this level was the 221 he made against Hampshire last year.
Keogh added playing against the likes of Sri Lanka greats Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara had been a “surreal” experience.
“I watched those guys as a kid growing up. Turning round and seeing them two in the slips nodding at you is a little bit surreal, but to score runs is even better.”
Sri Lanka’s 3-2 one-day series win over England ended in acrimony after Sachithra Senanayake ran out Jos Buttler when the non-striker backed up too far in the Lankans’ six-wicket victory at Edgbaston on Tuesday.
However, Keogh said there was no ‘needle’ between Northamptonshire and the tourists.
“There was just some friendly banter with the guys,” he explained.
“They were really nice, I can’t speak highly enough of them, and I wish them all the best for Thursday.”
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