Sri Lankan duo prosper as County are made to toil

Steven Crook was the pick of the Northants attack
Steven Crook was the pick of the Northants attack
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A pleasant, dry day, a flat pitch and a friendly attack meant that this was more than adequate practice for the Sri Lankan tourists on day one of the four-day fixture.

They were never going to be put up against a full-strength Northamptonshire side given the schedule, and given the way they’ve been playing that probably wouldn’t have made much difference, but in these days of next to no preparation, you can’t have everything.

What they will have desired, apart from no precipitation obviously, is time in the middle for their top order and on the first day that is exactly what they got.

They closed the day on 358-3 thanks to centuries of contrasting style from Kaushal Silva (152) and Lahiru Thirimanne (120) in an unbeaten partnership of 238 and they will be keen to carry on come tomorrow.

Having won the toss and elected to have first go, Dimuth Karunaratne fell in the second over, Steven Crook’s first, as he was caught at gully via his thigh pad.

A cagey start soon blossomed as Kumar Sangakkara found his range and it was something as a surprise, for the bowler especially, when he hoisted Kyle Coetzer’s gentle medium pace to fine-leg.

But you get rid of one world-class practitioner and you merely encourage the entrance of another and the left-hander’s departure allowed Mahela Jayawardene to get his money’s worth.

The lunch interval arrived with the hundred mark passed and Jayawardene, in conjunction with the solid and neat Silva, firmly entrenched and in no trouble whatsoever.

The latter’s unhurried and effortless progression came to an abrupt stop not too long into the afternoon session as he was outstandingly snared in the gully by Matt Spriegel as Crook, who was the pick of the bowlers, got one to bounce and cramp him for room.

Three should’ve become four a delivery later but Thirammane was given a reprieve as Ben Duckett made a real hash of a regulation chance to his left.

He made the most of it and then some as he strolled to three figures, with his cover driving a treat, and at one stage there was a chance he would scoot past his partner but Silva, who had become becalmed either side of his half century, found another gear.

Not quite as fluent against spin, but not really in any trouble either, the diminutive right-hander reached a deserved century - his 30th in first-class cricket - with a crisp cover-driven boundary.

From the home side’s perspective, there were a couple of positive features from the day’s play in the shape of Crook and David Willey.

The Australian, who was a shadow of his normal self in a shoddy performance at Trent Bridge a few weeks ago, bowled with decent pace and far better control and generally looked a threat.

As for Willey, after a lengthy absence with a back injury, his dozen overs in three spells were of a good quality and he ran in hard from the first ball of the morning which can only be a good sign.

Those two aside, it was fairly ordinary fare, Graeme White especially looking short of a gallop, but there was no lack of effort which is just as well because they will be doing more of the same on day two.