Zaheer goes flat out in the warm-up game

By Rex Clementine, IANS,

Colombo : Indian pacers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma went flat out to exploit helpful conditions in bowling out the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI for 224 in the warm-up game here.

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The home team, a talented bunch-up, were bowled out in 71.5 overs and the visitors were four for one when bad light brought an early end to the day’s play Thursday.

Captain Jehan Mubarak chose to bat first, but his side got off to a shaky start losing three wickets for 22 runs. But Mubarak (25), Chamara Silva (68) and Thilina Kandamby (84) consolidated the innings before the Indians struck back claiming the last seven wickets for just 42 runs.

Zaheer Khan, playing his first game after a heel injury forced him home from India’s tour of Australia in December, bowled an impeccable line picking up two wickets while Ishant Sharma with his pace troubled the batsmen. Although Sharma picked up just one wicket, he beat several top-order batsmen in gloomy conditions.

It was a good outing for the Indian bowlers against a side whose batting line-up included six with experience in international cricket.

The game was stopped due to rain interruptions either side of lunch and tea. The play was called off at 4:56 local time after just five balls into the Indian innings and with 15 overs left to be bowled. In that period, Dilhara Fernando picked up the wicket of Indian opener Gautam Gambhir, who was caught at gully by Mubarak for four.

In the morning, Zaheer produced the initial breakthrough for India when he forced left-hander Upul Tharanga on the back foot and had him leg before wicket for six. Fellow opener Mahela Udawatta slashed hard at a Sharma delivery, but only managed to edge it to wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik who had a good game claiming three catches.

Zaheer snared his second wicket, also in his first spell, when Chamara Kapugedara was caught behind to reduce Board President’s XI to 22 for three in the first hour of play.

Mubarak and Thilina Kandamby then added 60 runs for the fourth wicket and took Sri Lanka through to lunch. But off the second ball after the lunch, Mubarak was unfortunate to be ruled out leg before wicket to Harbhajan Singh, the umpire failing to notice the thick edge.

Silva and Kandamby then steadied the innings through.

Kandamby went on to make 84 in 138 balls with 11 boundaries and was out when he miss-hit a pull shot and was caught by Karthik to give Munaf Patel a wicket.

That triggered the collapse of the Board President’s XI and with the exception of wicketkeeper Kaushal Silva (12), none of the lower order batsmen managed to reach double figures.

Speaking to journalists after day’s play, Zaheer said he was happy with the effort on the first day of the tour. “It was a very good day for us. It was good to bowl on a fresh wicket and there was a nice cloud cover too with a bit of breeze. All that worked in our favour. On a personal note, I was happy with my effort. I would have bowled the same way in a Test Match. I wasn’t holding back anything,” Zaheer said.

“The way I look at it, it’s going to get better from hereon. So our batsmen can work their way to get some runs ahead of the Tests. It was good we got them bowled out for not too many. It’s good to start the tour on a good note and looking forward for a competitive series,” he added.

Board President’s XI middle order batsman Chamara Silva, who is expected to play in the Test series was happy with his contribution, but admitted that he should have gone on to make a bigger one.

“I am happy with my effort, but certainly could have done better with a longer innings. It’s a good bowling attack. This is their Test attack and they did well,” Silva, who made 68 in 106 balls, said.