Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 3rd unofficial Test, Colombo, 4th day March 1, 2014

Robson's fifth hundred completes Lions' job


England Lions 461 (Woakes 137, Chopra 83) and 273 for 5 (Robson 147*, Chopra 56*) drew with Sri Lanka A 339 (Tharanga 149, Kerrigan 4-86)

The last three days saw barely a soul in attendance at the Premadasa Stadium, but as England Lions secured the draw they needed to take the series, England's Test aspirants may have felt one set of eyes scanning them more keenly than any other. Graham Gooch had arrived in Sri Lanka ahead of this match, foregoing most people's favourite cricket tour - a trip to the West Indies, with the national side.

Gooch is in Colombo to measure England's emerging talent, as the beleaguered senior team seeks fresh direction. Perched behind the bowlers' arm for much of the game's duration, he has passed grunts of approval and harrumphs of discontent whenever a Lions batsman has been at the crease.

On the final day, Gooch's growls were largely of the happier variety, as Sam Robson hit his third hundred of the tour - an unbeaten 147. The innings came in the most testing conditions in the match. The ball had begun to take considerable turn, and the seamers had started to extract inconsistent bounce.

Robson warded off the threat of a Lions collapse in the morning and remained vigilant once the threat had passed. Perhaps suspecting England's batting coach was watching his every move, he held the pose whenever he struck it particularly sweetly. Compact in defence, and compelling in attack, Robson prospered in the V, prompting a murmured affirmation from Gooch when he hit a searing straight drive off Vishwa Fernando.

Offspinner Suraj Randiv had troubled Lions batsmen from the outset on the final day, but Robson was rarely perturbed by his accuracy, nor his extra bounce. Twice he inside edged Randiv past the stumps, but they were hardly close calls. It would not have escaped Gooch that Robson had also hit two hundreds in Australia three months ago, with England's Performance Programme squad.

To have succeeded in Perth and Colombo at 24 years of age suggests serious batting talent. The Lions' coach Mark Robinson certainly thinks so.

"Sam has to be pushing for a place in the national team," he said. "Even in the nets, he's got this great ability to play every ball like it's the most important ball he's ever had in his life. That's a great quality, and you see it when you watch him in the middle. We've also seen it first hand in the county season, where his tempo stays very consistent when he's batting.

"He's had a great innings, and what these boys need to do is back it up when they get back, but they'll take some good form and good news back with them."

The commitmen Robson brought to his work was evident in his refusal to allow his effort to wane, even when the heat had sapped him. Even before Robson reached three figures, he was hunched over at the non-striker's end and, as the day grew long, he would sit increasingly on his haunches between balls. Yet when he bowler reached the top of his mark, Robson would switch himself on. Tired as he was, few poor deliveries escaped punishment even late in the day.

Varun Chopra hit his second fifty of the match in the third session, as Sri Lanka fizzled out, clear now that they would neither win nor lose. Lahiru Gamage bowled a spell off testing reverse swing in the afternoon, but he could not cause significant damage at his pace.

Vishwa Fernando had the opposite problem, going through quickly even off the slowing surface, but unable to generate enough lateral movement to trouble the batsmen. Sri Lanka had hoped he could become the hit-the-deck left-arm cog in their pace battery, but he has not been penetrative in this series, and may require more time to develop.

Although the Lions won the series, 1-0 is not a particularly disheartening result for the hosts. Sri Lanka will rarely possess the depth England boasts, and a healthy portion of this team played in their first A-team series.

Most will view these matches as simply a step in their development, only, the two oldest players - Randiv and Tharanga - will just have to hope that Sri Lanka's team management paid as much attention to this game as England's top brass did.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ray on March 2, 2014, 23:10 GMT

    England has been criticised in the past for having players from South Arica and Ireland especially. I guess ultimately its up to the player who happens to be eligible for two countries which one they will choose and England offers some people more opportunities.

  • Tom on March 2, 2014, 17:16 GMT

    Quote: Posted by David Simkins on (March 1, 2014, 21:05 GMT) Born in Paddington, London? Nope..! Well no surprise there then! Is there any English born cricketers out there?

    Ten of the eleven in this game were born in England; the other has had British nationality since birth. What's your point? Other than ignorance?

  • Roshan on March 2, 2014, 16:44 GMT

    As far as the spot for wicket-keeper is concerned, Bairstow has proved on this tour and before that he isn't a great batsman (as much as I would have liked to see a Yorkshireman in the team) or a great keeper. Prior should still have it despite his bad form as he is a good keeper and a good batsman. Buttler is more of an ODI "finisher", and I believe he needs some more time before he gets a Test call-up, and I'm not sure how good Davies is. The safest option is to go with Prior.

  • Roshan on March 2, 2014, 16:34 GMT

    Surely Robson has staked his claim as England opener. Taylor probably has although he'll have to compete with Ballance who seems a good player. For their next Test series I would also consider Compton at 3, seeing as he has been playing at 3 in domestic cricket. I would bring in Jordan or Mills if Anderson is rested, although he probably won't be, and I would rest Joe Root for now also. This would be my XI:

    1. Cook, 2. Robson, 3. Compton, 4. Taylor / Ballance, 5. Bell, 6. Stokes / Woakes, 7. Prior, 8. Broad, 9. Panesar / Kerrigan / Borthwick, 10. Onions, 11. Anderson / Jordan.

    There! That already looks like a team with potential. I expect pretty big things of the new look England!!!!!!

  • Paulo on March 2, 2014, 13:18 GMT

    @JG2704 Are Stokes and Woakes both good enough batsmen/bowlers to both play in the side? Arguably Woakes is, but many would argue his lack of pace renders him innocuous in international cricket.

  • John on March 2, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    The headline is misleading saying "Completes The Job" - Like England won the game.

    It was a fair tour but we also have to consider the strength of the opposition.

    Several players have come out of the tour and Woakes in particular has given the selectors plaenty to ponder. Would/could they consider Woakes and Stokes in the same team?

  • Nick on March 2, 2014, 1:56 GMT

    There was a spring in the step of the England Lions side on show at Premadasa, sadly missing from the Ashes squad in Australia. The players ran quickly into position between overs, the fielding was sharp and alert, and the batsmen and bowlers stuck to the job at hand. With the England team in such disarray, it seems extraordinary that this 3-test series has received scant, if any, media coverage back home. Robson, Taylor, Woakes and Kerrigan have all put their hands up for England selection, and coach Mark Robinson can now throw his hat into the ring for the vacant England coaching position. Well played Lions!

  • Darshil on March 2, 2014, 1:39 GMT

    Wow Robson, should be selected for england... they need him. More international players, this time an aussie!

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2014, 21:26 GMT

    I think everyone will agree that even though its magnified by how poorly the number 1 England side have done, the Lions guys have all showed themselves to be excellent. Robson has scored runs dedicatedly all winter, Taylor scored a double tonne and a couple of fifties, Chopra showed consistency, Plunkett, Woakes, Mills and Onions showed quality with the ball and Kerrigan, Borthwick and Rayner didn't disgrace themselves in a country that contains some of the best players of spin in the world. Only thing still up in the air is the keeping spot and to be honest Prior has had one bad year after multiple good ones. He deserves some faith to be honest if you're willing to keep Cook and Bresnan, the latter of whom hasn't done anything good for England in 2 years at least. Oh and Bopara is still terrible so if you're going to keep faith in him keep with Prior.

  • Greg on March 1, 2014, 21:20 GMT

    My team would be: 1. Cook 2. Robson 3. Compton 4. Bell 5. Taylor/Carberry 6. Ali 7. Stokes 8. Davies/Prior 9. Broad 10. Anderson 11. Onions

    Sadly, I suspect Joe Root, Tim Bresnan, Jos Buttler and Scott Borthwick may well be in the actual team selected.....

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