Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 1st unofficial Test, Pallakele, 2nd day February 13, 2014

Woakes puts Lions in firm control


England Lions 330 and 105 for 4 (de Silva 3-29) lead Sri Lanka A 171 (Prasad 50, Woakes 4-45) by 264 runs

Chris Woakes puts England Lions in command

There are a number of this England Lions squad that have taken a hefty knock from international cricket. Injury, unfortunate selection and underperformance have befallen them. They have all been forced back into cricketing purgatory having been briefly shown through the pearly gates.

Chris Woakes has had a double dose. His run of 13 one-day internationals was ended last June and his Test debut in August deterred the selectors from including him in the Ashes party - a decision that one could now argue was a blessing in disguise.

He was on the wrong end of Martin Guptill last summer but maintained his form in county cricket, finishing the season as the leading English allrounder, and shrugged off an unrewarding Test debut - where four of his first five overs went for 30 - to complete the year strongly with Warwickshire, including a first-class best 152 not out. He then put in two solid performances for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash.

Being made captain of England Lions for this Sri Lanka tour would have been a further stir in raising his credentials as an international cricketer. On the second day in Pallekele he produced an opening spell worthy of such a player and finished with 4 for 45 to put his side in full control.

It was feared that Sri Lanka A's young order would be over exposed against a high-quality experienced attack, benefitting from swing with the new ball. The third ball of the innings compounded such thoughts. The fourth doubled the scepticism that this match will last four days. Two wickets in the opening over and by lunch the hosts were 55 for 6 and Sri Lankan appetites for a season in England were disappearing.

Footwork, a lack thereof, was chiefly to blame for five of the top six contributing only 21, two of them ducks. Just enough movement flummoxed four into offering catches behind the wicket, the first of which was stunningly held by Liam Plunkett with one hand down to his right hand side. Onions also won an lbw decision against left-handed Niroshan Dickwella.

The new ball - taken by Woakes and Graham Onions - was when classically English bowling was a threat. When the swinging ball had run its course, Chaturunga de Silva and Dhammika Prasad thrived. But their stand of 64 was for the eighth wicket merely propped up the innings from a miserable 61 for 7. Sri Lanka paid badly for their failure to get into the meat of the innings with any kind of stability. They only lasted 48 overs.

Veteran captain Upal Tharanga survived the initial carnage but 30 was a modest return from the most experienced player in the order. He fell in the last over before tea as Moeen Ali found some turn to have him caught at short leg. Moeen also ended de Silva's attractive innings, finding an edge taken by Varun Chopra at first slip. It was evidence of what an attacking weapon Moeen can be. Scott Borthwick did not bowl in the innings.

De Silva held the Lions to a draw in the second warm-up in Colombo and again demonstrated his sound technique - albeit coming in at No. 6 against a ball not as fresh - and flourishing strokemaking. His piercing cover drive off Tymal Mills was the shot of the day. In general it was more intelligent batting than his colleagues up the order and prevented his side from being totally blown away.

De Silva was helped by some hefty striking from Prasad. He belted several drives through the covers, lifted Moeen over extra-cover for four and then over long-off for six, and managed his last partner carefully enough to allow the addition of 28 more runs. The stand nearly saved the follow-on that the Lions predictably chose not to enforce.

But the tourists stumbled in adding to their first-innings lead of 159 as Sri Lanka A's very capable spinners, Tharindu Kaushal and de Silva, thrived in more helpful conditions. The Lions' top three all fell lbw, Chopra sweeping, and James Taylor nibbled to slip. Three wickets went to de Silva who, in the face of testing day for his side, walked off with a smile.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on February 14, 2014, 18:46 GMT

    Another 315 to get. Np for SL a.

  • Paulo on February 14, 2014, 7:45 GMT

    @Sirviv1973 I doubt Stokes is an automatic selection. His performances in Aus were overstated. In tests he averages more with ball than bat. Woakes had better county stats but Stokes was picked due to suiting Aus conditions, so all staying equal surely Woakes should play in England. Also Stokes had a full county season, a month off, an ashes tour, then WI and WT20. He deserves/needs a rest- look what's happpened to Root. His ODI stats are poor, and he described his list A game as awful, but with Willey injured I'd say he's the best seam bowling white ball allrounder- better than consistent failures like Bopara and Wright.

    @Dasith fair enough I didnt see it.

  • Dummy4 on February 13, 2014, 23:28 GMT

    @CodandChips not taking anything away from the man but did you see the photos of the pitch and last report? It has so much grass left on it I thought they were playing in England.

  • Ohhhh on February 13, 2014, 21:09 GMT

    Robson, Cook, Bell, Ali, Ballance, Stokes, Prior(wk), Woakes, Broad, Finn, Anderson.

    Ali as the spinner, Broad and Finn to bowl in short sharp bursts as quick as possible and Anderson's career can be extended for a couple more years as he bowls less and less.

  • Paulo on February 13, 2014, 19:51 GMT

    I like this article. It doesn't get carried away with just 2 days' performance.

    "There are a number of this England Lions squad that have taken a hefty knock from international cricket. Injury, unfortunate selection and underperformance have befallen them. They have all been forced back into cricketing purgatory having been briefly shown through the pearly gates." is a great introduction. Could apply it to Taylor, Bairstow, Woakes, Borthwick, Plunkett and Onions, therefore I feel it fits perfectly.

    Although personally would have liked a bit more info, such as what was Mill's pace like? How comfortable did Lees look?

  • Dean on February 13, 2014, 19:30 GMT

    @Codandchips, Are you suggesting Stokes should be rested from the tests or ODIs against SRL? Although Stokes has a big future & will need his workload will managed over the coming years, i'm not sure he needs to be rested at this very early stage of his international career. He's nailed on for a CC so he won't be playing too many games for Durham this year.There might be an argument for him not to feature in the ODis depending on what sort of shape he comes back from the worldT20 in, although he is only going to be bowling 4 overs a match there. He has to play in the tests, in the early stages of the rebuilding process he is one of the few automatic choices and needs the experience.

  • Mark on February 13, 2014, 19:05 GMT

    Plenty of interesting names in the Lions team although, once again, with Sam Robson closer than ever to an England debut, he has failed to register the sort of big innings that would launch him. This happened last season too: as soon as speculation started that he would be a shoe-in, his form dropped off. I hope that he will produce the sort of big innings that Middlesex have come to expect from him in these matches.

    As for Chris Woakes, yes, his first spell in Test cricket was not great, but he came back pretty well and could have had several wickets. Why he has been written off by anyone is beyond me.

    However, the big star has been Moeen Ali. Looks like he has a real chance of making a Test debut next summer.

  • Nicholas on February 13, 2014, 18:58 GMT

    Not such a "wasteful" display after all then? The bowlers have done what needed to be done; agree it's great to see the likes of Woakes on song. Hopefully a few of the batsmen can make good use of the time left, although so many LBW's may suggest a tricky pitch and/or rash stroke-choice?

  • Paulo on February 13, 2014, 16:44 GMT

    Good to see Woakes working to dispel the myth that he's a "green-top" bowler. A solid series with bat and ball should see him feature in the series vs Sri Lanka this summer while Stokes gets a rest.

    A shame Taylor couldnt score. But good to see Moeen Ali's class with bat and ball.

    A good bat from the allrounders tomorrow should be enough for the Lions to win.

  • Lakpriya on February 13, 2014, 15:50 GMT

    This is a good opportunity for the young players, in the domestic circuit they will not come of across such quality seam bowling. Even if SL A loose it will hold these young players in good step for the future when they take on more serious challenges. Can't understand what M Warnapura is doing in the squad. he has no hope of getting back to the senior team.

  • No featured comments at the moment.