Singapore's indoor cricketers gave a tough fight to the Sri Lanka All-Stars in a warm-up series over the weekend as they prepared for September's World Cup in Dubai.
Though the national Open team lost the friendlies 1-2, the players gave a good account of themselves which caught the vastly experienced Sri Lankans, among whom were several World Cup veterans, by surprise.
Singapore won the opening match by one run, but lost the subsequent matches by 13 runs and four runs respectively.
The national team had finished last at the seven-team World Cup in New Zealand in 2014. Sri Lanka are the top team in Asia and considered the fifth- best in the world.
"We were quite surprised by the how the Singapore team performed," said Hiran de Mel, 52, the technical head of the Ceylon Indoor Cricket Association who watched the matches. "They were very sharp and showed some outstanding fielding abilities. They are a good, young unit."
Asela Pathirana, the coach of the Sri Lanka All-Stars who captained his national side at the 2002 World Cup, was impressed too.
Said the 40-year-old: "In the last two years since Singapore made their debut at the World Cup, they have improved tremendously. This is a highly-skilled team with good all-round abilities. If they continue to practise well, they can cause a few upsets at the World Cup."
Singapore tried out four new players in a bid to widen their selection pool for the World Cup.
"Winning was not very important for us as we wanted to give experience of international matches to our new players," said Rajiv Chandrasekar, 32, the captain of the national Open team. "We fought hard and overall did very well. It is a big achievement for us to get so close to the Sri Lankans."
According to coach Rashid Ahmed Khan, the players gained valuable experience and showed they could compete at the sport's highest level.
"This series was very useful in terms of preparation," said the 41-year-old. "The boys are now motivated to do well at the World Cup."
Another warm-up series with Malaysia has been lined up for July.
The Singapore Masters team (above 35s) drew their series with their Sri Lanka All-Stars counterparts 1-1.