Colombo: England's cricketers had an early sighting of Sri Lanka's conditions -- and its wildlife -- as they opened their six-week tour on Tuesday with a tough day in the field.
The bowlers toiled hard on the slow wicket at the Colombo Cricket Club as the Sri Lanka Cricket XI scored 218-3 by stumps on the first day of the three-day practice match.
Left-handed opener Upul Tharanga, sent back early from the Test tour of Australia to tune up for the home series, was unbeaten on 92 when heavy rain ended play 29 overs early.
Tharanga put on 82 for the second wicket with Malinda Warnapura (48) and 92 in an unbroken fourth wicket stand with Chamara Kapugedara, who was unbeaten on 48 at the close.
Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and Monty Panesar picked up a wicket each, while off-spinner Graeme Swann proved the most expensive with 0-65 from his 12 overs.
The home team's batting skills were not the only thing that caught the attention of the tourists.
Broad was chasing the ball in the outfield in the morning session when he spotted a giant cobra snake a few yards outside the boundary ropes.
As soon as lunch was called, inquisitive England players rushed to the spot to get a glimpse of the deadly snake, which had wriggled itself into a hole in the club walls.
When play resumed after lunch, the snake was forgotten as the local batsmen went after the English bowling.
Panesar, regarded by coach Peter Moores as the team's first-choice spinner, was thrashed for five boundaries in his opening over by Warnapura.
Panesar earned some consolation when he removed Test contender Tillekeratne Dilshan for nought as the batsman skied an easy catch to Ravi Bopara in the covers.
"We had seen a snake during the one-day series in October in Dambulla and that brought us some luck because we won 3-2," said Swann.
"Hopefully we will have some luck this time also."
Meanwhile, fast bowler Steve Harmison joined the touring party on Tuesday morning after proving his fitness playing domestic cricket in South Africa.
Harmison, who arrived a few hours before play started, could still take the field in this practice game, where England have been allowed to rotate all their 16 players.
The tourists will also play a first-class match against the same opposition in Colombo from Nov 25-27 before the first Test begins in Kandy on December 1.
The second Test will be played in Colombo from Dec 9-13 and the third in Galle from Dec 18-22.
SLC XI 218 for 3 (U. Tharanga 92 not out, M. Warnapura 48, C. Kapugedara 48 not out; R. Sidebottom 1 for 24, S. Broad 1 for 20, M. Panesar 1 for 43) Vs England.