Cricket: Monsoon rain moves warm-up matches

Heavy monsoon rains have forced the International Cricket Council to move World Cup warm-up matches from Sri Lanka's Pallekele stadium, tournament organisers said Thursday.

Sri Lanka has been hit by monsoon downpours since December hampering preparation of the pitches at the newly-built Pallekele venue in the island's central district.

Pallekele was to host practice matches between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands on Saturday and Kenya against the Netherlands on Tuesday.

But the matches have now been shifted to the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo.

"The matches will be day games and while Hambantota had also been considered as an alternate venue for those games, heavy rain in that southern Sri Lankan region also ruled out that option," said a statement by the organisers.

Earlier, tournament director Ratnakar Shetty said: "The ground staff at Pallekele have had to contend with an extremely high volume of rainfall over a number of weeks, far in excess of what is normal for this time of year.

"This has proved to be a significant handicap in their efforts to produce pitches for the forthcoming warm-up matches," he said.

Shetty said the decision to move the warm-up matches would give ground staff time to prepare "excellent pitches" for the tournament.

The decision to shift the games will not affect World Cup matches, the ICC said.

Pallekele will be the venue for three World Cup matches, the first between New Zealand and Pakistan is scheduled for March 8.

The showpiece event, being co-hosted by Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, starts on February 19.

Heavy monsoon floods across Sri Lanka';s central, northern and eastern regions have claimed at least 21 lives and affected over 1.2 million people.

- AAP

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