Kumar out to make Durham impact

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SRI Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara feels like he has been given the chance to take care of some unfinished business, writes Gary Foster.

The 36-year-old says he always wanted to return to English county cricket, and is delighted to do so with Durham – albeit for just two games against Yorkshire and Sussex.

Sangakkara played for Warwickshire in the 2007 season, and revealed he had been due to return to the English domestic scene three years later, but was unable to do so.

Now he is back, and looking forward to the challenge at Durham.

“Coming back and playing county cricket has always been of interest to me,” he said.

“It’s something I’ve really looked forward to.

“I actually signed up to play for Lancashire in 2010-11, that was just preceding the World Cup, so I sat down with the selectors and we decided it maybe wasn’t a good time to do that.

“That was a shame.

“I’m very pleased to be here, Durham’s got a fantastic side, they’ve started off very well and it’s always a pleasure to play on a track like this alongside some very good players.”

Durham’s latest signing will be hoping to find his feet quicker than he found his way to their Emirates ICG home yesterday.

Apologising for being late to the Press conference for his unveiling, Sangakkara explained: “They (the club) told me to get on the motorway, and I couldn’t remember getting on it when I arrived on Tuesday.

“It seemed much shorter on Tuesday. I rang Jon Lewis and he told me if I was on the motorway, I was going the wrong way.

“He told me to go past the junction and I asked him ‘what’s a junction?!’ In Sri Lanka junctions are very different things.”

Now that he knows where he is headed, the batsman will look to use his time at Durham to prepare for his country’s tour of England this summer.

But he insists he knows that he has to stay focused on his Durham role, which gets under way in a four-day home LV County Championship game against Yorkshire, starting on Sunday.

He added: “Coming here, the conditions are really challenging if you’re looking to learn. This is a great place to come.

“It’s important – I need to keep my focus on the present and make an impact against Yorkshire.

“Of course, I’ll have the preparation for England at the back of my mind, but it’s important to be focused on current events.”

Durham will be looking to Sangakkara – one the stars of world cricket at the moment – to deliver performances on the field, but will also hope his experience and expertise will help some of their young stars to improve their games.

For his part, the T20 World Cup winner believes his short stay can be mutually beneficial.

He said: “Learning’s a two-way street on the country circuit. At Warwickshire, they had a lot of questions because I was at that time an international player, but I learned a lot from talking to them, and watching them play in these conditions, so I’ll get as much help as I’ll give.”

Despite being vastly experienced, Sangakkara is not expecting an easy ride this summer. “Learning is a constant, especially when you play in different conditions,” he said.

“Australia has got some of the best batting wickets in the world, so it’s slightly easier to get used to.

“England is all different – the weather is different, the ball is different and the way it behaves.

“It swings a bit more once the shine is of. It’s a great challenge to come and play here, especially in early season.”

Sangakkara’s tourists face England in a one-dayer at the Emirates ICG on May 25.

H Yorkshire were rocked by a seven-wicket defeat to Middlesex yesterday. Aussie Chris Rogers hit a brilliant, unbeaten 241 as the hosts chased down 472, their highest fourth-innings total ever at Lord’s.

 Tykes coach Jason Gillespie said: “Sometimes you have to take your hat off to the opposition. We gave it our best but it just didn’t quite work in the second innings with the ball.”