Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cricket: England Snaking toward Fitness in Heat; 'Rustiness' Is Expected

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cricket: England Snaking toward Fitness in Heat; 'Rustiness' Is Expected

Article excerpt

Byline: By Richard Gibson

ENGLAND'S bowlers were spared a full day's toil in the heat by a dramatic thunderstorm as their preparation for the three-Test series in Sri Lanka got under way.

The opening day of three against a Sri Lanka Cricket Board President's XI offered the chance to acclimatise and, although the wet weather halted play shortly after tea, it was an incident-packed start.

Conditions at the Colombo Cricket Club were quite different to early season back in England and rustiness was inevitable - even for those who triumphed on the oneday trip here last month - so it will not be a great concern that the President's XI closed on 218-3.

Neither, surprisingly, was the presence of two cobras basking in the sun a few yards from the boundary edge. The England players were so intrigued by the presence of the snakes during the lunch interval that it rather deflected from the arrival of the tourists' potentially most venomous bowler Steve Harmison, from domestic cricket in South Africa.

Stuart Broad was first made aware of the snakes late in the morning session and by the end of the interval just about every member of the England party had been to look at the length of pipe into which they had slid. However Graeme Swann was left unimpressed by the size of the snake.

He said: "Someone came into the pavilion saying there was an eightmetre snake down there and that is when Kevin Pietersen went running over with a big stick and started poking it. When I went down I could see about six inches-worth of snake, so I don't know who said eight metres."

Last month off-spinner Swann was one of the players of the series in a 3-2 one-day victory. But like his colleagues he will now have to adapt to lengthy spells under the sapping sun.

"You just forget how hot it is out there," said Swann. "When you play the one-day stuff it's three hours and then you're off into the changing room, but when it's 90 overs and you are plugging away it just seems hotter and hotter. It's quite hard work."

Swann suffered more than most as his dozen wicketless overs cost 65 runs. Fellow spinner Monty Panesar operated from the same end and was clouted for 20 in his opening over as Malinda Warnapura hit five fours, the first two fortuitous edges, the remaining trio vicious cuts from short balls. …

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