Strauss puts the pressure on Solanki
Andy Strauss: one step closer to an England debut
England XI 237 for 8 from 38 overs (Strauss 83, Blackwell 63) v Sri Lanka Cricket President's XI 76 for 1 - Match abandoned
England are getting rather used to soggy arrivals. After landing in Bangladesh last month in the middle of a tropical storm, today at Moratuwa they were treated to rather more familiar conditions. Persistent drizzle caused a two-hour delay to the start of their opening fixture against a Sri Lanka Cricket President's XI, and the clouds rolled over late in the day as well to curtail an intriguingly poised match. Nevertheless England, who fielded a much-weakened side, will have gained plenty insight from the 45 overs available. Andrew Strauss in particular is becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
Strauss's second innings of the winter, 83 from 88 balls, was much more of a statement than his 51 in Bangladesh last week. As England's bowlers later discovered to their cost, today's opposition was considerably stiffer than the Under-Development team that they faced at Dhaka, and with Vikram Solanki's miserable tour continuing, Strauss is suddenly in line for an international debut at Moratuwa on Tuesday. Solanki, who managed just 11 runs in the three matches against Bangladesh, added a fifth-ball duck to his tally, although he did appear to be struck outside the line by Nandika Ranjith.
In the absence of a host of senior players, England's captain for the day was Anthony McGrath, who made a successful start by winning the toss and choosing to bat first. McGrath's own contribution was minimal - he made 9 from 14 balls as England clattered to an imposing total of 237 for 8 in their 38 alloted overs. The bulk of the work was done by Strauss and Ian Blackwell, who continued his beefy form with a heavy-batted 63 from 52 balls, to help add 110 in 15 overs for the fourth wicket.
Chris Read, opening in the place of Marcus Trescothick, added to his cannon of feisty innings with a brisk 34, but Rikki Clarke missed out when he was bowled through the gate by the left-arm spinner Dinuk Hettiarachchi. Gareth Batty splattered a brace of sixes to lift the tempo towards the end of the innings, but when it was England's turn to bowl, they swiftly discovered that the whole team will need to lift their game to another level in the coming weeks.
In the 17.1 overs available to the Sri Lankans, Michael Vandort and Saman Jayantha rattled along to 76 for 1, taking advantage of some radars that had not quite adjusted to the improved techniques of the Sri Lankan batsmen. Johnson, whose short ball had been dismissing Bangladeshi batsmen for fun, suffered the indignity of being thumped clean out of the ground by Jayantha, while Vandort's 6ft 3in frame was equally untroubled by the confused lengths. It took a smart catch in the gully from Solanki to remove Jayantha for a well-compiled 24 (63 for 1), but the heavens soon had the last say.