Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 1st unofficial Test, Pallekele, 3rd day February 14, 2014

Woakes forgoes century in victory hunt


Sri Lanka A 171 and 161 for 5 require a further 315 runs to beat England Lions 330 and 319 for 8 dec (Woakes 92*, Borthwick 64)

Chris Woakes leads Lions victory push

Team spirit is top of the zeitgeist this year. England were depicted as a divided side during their Ashes whitewash and togetherness and playing for the team have been key phrases behind England's rebuilding blueprint and the purpose of dismissing Kevin Pietersen. Greed is not good.

But England Lions are one happy band of brothers, all sweating in the Sri Lankan dust in the quest of international cricket and improving the national game. They must be. Why else would Chris Woakes trot off the field, eight short of an eighth first-class century?

It would have been a fitting end for Woakes, who punched and nudged his way to spitting distance of three figures, to have brought up a century as skipper. He ensured the Lions slipped away from danger and set a target far out of sight for Sri Lanka A. For the last quarter of his innings he was in superb touch, strong on the drive and skipping down the wicket to lift Tharindu Kaushal over mid-off to take him into the 90s.

But on 92 not out and on course for a second first-class century in four innings, Woakes's partner, Scott Borthwick, ran past a delivery from Kaushal and was stumped. He walked off and Woakes went with him. England had declared. Woakes had declared. His hundred didn't matter. It was more beneficial for Tymal Mills to keep his pads off. Team spirit. One for all d'Artagnan (here played by Sussex coach Mark Robinson).

The pair left the ground together. They had steered the Lions away from trouble with a stand of 155 for the seventh wicket. Their position had been edgy at 138 for 6 when Niroshan Dickwella took his second catch of the morning from the bowling of Dhammika Prasad. But Woakes and Borthwick dashed any lingering hopes the hosts had of a reachable target.

It was an obvious point at which to declare but with four-and-a-half sessions left in the match and the Sri Lankan order, on evidence of the first innings, more unstable than a Pallekele pavement, there was time for Woakes's century. It would not have been greedy on his behalf, it would have been a moment the team could have shared. First-class centuries are precious things.

The declaration brought a glimpse of a three-day victory and again England struck immediately. For the Lions to get the most out of this tour, their opposition needs to be far more competitive with the bat. International innings on the subcontinent are rarely finished before the second new ball is due - at least when seamers do most of the bowling. A long spell in the field would be beneficial and, on this evidence, Sri Lanka A will struggle to provide it.

This time Graham Onions bowled the opening over. The third ball, a back of a length delivery a foot outside off, was punched off the back foot by Udara Jaysundera, getting a thick outside edge between third slip and gully for four. Onions went fuller with the fifth ball and the batsman greedily drove without moving his feet and edged to first-slip.

Upal Tharanga played an even worse stroke. Woakes slid a delivery across him just back of a length, Tharanga swiped at it from the crease and Scott Borthwick held a smart catch above his head at second slip. Both openers played hideously irresponsibly. A target of 479 was a nominal one but the hosts need to ensure their futures are not hindered by a weak showing in this series. Perhaps Tharanga has no more future in international cricket.

But Madhawa Warnapura put in a display fitting of a top order player at this level. He was organised and left well, brave against Tymal Mills too. Chatharunga de Silva again played a classy innings and England's celebrations at his wicket were indicative of the respect they have for him.

Borthwick was given a bowl for the first time in the match, just a handful of overs in the last half-hour, and performed well. He beat the edge twice, asked several questions of Warnapura outside off stump and bowled two full tosses that were whacked over mid-on; it was standard fare from a talented, developing leggie.

But it was again Moeen Ali who delivered. He changed to the Media Centre End and had de Silva sharply held by James Taylor at short leg. Five wickets were left for the morrow.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on February 17, 2014, 11:40 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer on (February 15, 2014, 11:03 GMT) No - just because England got the results doesn't make me wrong. From the position England were in from end of day 2 onwards it would have taken a major catastrophe to lose the game from there. What Strauss did with his overcautious nature was to give Australia a more realistic chance of saving the game. That they didn't was due to the skill of our bowlers. Some with Cook in the 2nd home test vs NZ.

    Those decisions were no better than Trescothick's vs Warwicks early last season and BMac's vs Eng in the 3rd test in NZ - both decisions costing their sides likely wins. In fairness I think Bmac got carried away with batting as he (despite being captain) was called in by someone else when it was his decision to make. Just because the end result works out well does not mean it's a correct decision.

  • John on February 15, 2014, 13:43 GMT

    @jonesy2isaBigot on (February 15, 2014, 9:39 GMT), sometimes it seems to me that the laws of physics don't apply to cricket. All this talk of "bowling a heavy ball" and "hitting the pitch hard" is frankly a complete crock. All it boils down to is whether a bowler is actually faster than their action suggests, e.g. Tim Bresnan. According to the laws of physics, if two bowlers release the ball at the same velocity and angle, each will hit the pitch with exactly the same amount of hardness. It's a fact.

  • Paulo on February 15, 2014, 13:30 GMT

    @Arthursashes nice theory but dont forget last year dry summer & new drainage systems lead to ridiculously dry pitches. For keepers consider Steven Davies.

  • martin on February 15, 2014, 13:15 GMT

    I hope that Moeen Ali gets his chance for England this summer. If they decide to go for 4 pace bowlers and a support spinner, then the question is whether they pick someone like Panasar or Kerrigan as a specialist, or go with someone who brings a better all around game, but is developing as a spinner. I'd put Ali ahead of Borthwick right now in that category. His bowling looks to be improving. Borthwick on the other hand is still a little loose for Test cricket.

    If the wickets favour the pace bowlers then there is no point picking a specialist spinner who might not get a bowl and offers nothing as a bat and can't field either, might as well go for an all rounder type, after all, that's the way Swann started. Spots 6 to 11 of Ali, Stokes, wk (Prior, Butler, Bairstow, other?), Bresnan (Woakes?), Broad and Anderson. Looks decent enough for home Tests that may suit traditional English seam and bats deep which may be needed given the top 5 mess and absence of KP.

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2014, 12:19 GMT

    Loved Moeen's contribution to the game. Not massive scoring but good aggressive batting, attacking line with the ball and great fielding. He's done his T20 wc chances a world of good.

  • Mark on February 15, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    I think that the biggest recognition of Andrew Strauss as a captain and a strategist was the generalized opinion after the 2006/07 Ashes: the selectors picked the wrong captain - we probably would have lost even had he been captain, but it would not have been 5-0 and we would most certainly not have lost at Adelaide. In 2009 he took over a side that had suffered humiliation after humiliation since 2006 and, alongside Andy Flower, made them into ruthless winners.

  • Mark on February 15, 2014, 11:03 GMT

    Thing is @JG2704, he won time and again because he employed the Australian strategy of hammering the opposition until they lost the will to resist. That is not cautious: it is ruthless. You back your side to destroy the opposition. Strauss was far more ruthless than any other England captain that I have seen of recent vintage and that includes Michael Vaughan, although I would rate him as a more inspired captain, at least initially, capable of making something of nothing in the way that Mike Brearley managed to.

    And yes, as you point out, he was right and you were wrong... he made the correct call and England did win. Had the rain saved Australia there would be reasonable grounds to criticize. Maybe if he had played it your way England would have lost... we will never know.

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2014, 10:59 GMT

    There were 7 LBWs against England Lions batsmen out of 18 wickets ,6 of those LBWs being of top order batsmen In contrast there were 2 LBWs against Sri Lanka A batsmen out of 20 wickets, of which 1 was number 11 batsman. Mind boggles!!!

  • John on February 15, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    @CS - CTD - Sometimes results are maintained despite poor captaincy decisions - such as this result and Eng just managing to get enough time to bowl NZ out in the 2nd inns last year. Sometimes poor captaincy can cost a team a win - NZ vs Eng 3rd test and Somerset vs Warwicks early 2013.

  • John on February 15, 2014, 9:54 GMT

    @CS - My thoughts re Strauss come from what I'VE seen of him.My example was in the Ashes series in Aus of 10/11 when IMO England batted on too long in the 1st inns.Why was it necessary to get a 375 1st inns lead at the expense of time to bowl the Aussies out? The weather was set to rain at some point in the 4th day and it could have been mid morning or mid afternoon.Australia entered the 5th day 4 wickets down with 2 of their form guys Hussey and North at the crease. As it happened the bowlers polished the Aus tail off in 20 overs (just before lunch) but within an hour of the lunch break it was said that the heavens opened for the rest of the day. It ended ok but had the Aus lower 6 survived another hours cricket (making about 3 hours in total) they would have drawn the game. The series was 0-0 at the time.If Eng had declared 100 or so runs earlier it would have taken a freak set of circumstances compared to what it would have taken for Aus to hold out for the draw

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