Pacemen seal Sri Lanka outstanding victory
Sri Lankans 266 and 448 beat England Lions 493 for 8 dec and 183 (Hildreth 38, Pradeep 4-29, Fernando 3-33) by 38 runs
The Sri Lankans gave themselves the perfect pre-Test tonic with an outstanding come-from-behind victory by 38 runs against England Lions. Despite following on 227 adrift they transformed the match and dismissed the Lions for 183 during the final session at Derby. Dilhara Fernando took three wickets in six balls including Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara, a pair who had contrasting emotions after England's Test squad was named, while Nuwan Pradeep went through the rest with 4 for 29.
It was a superb performance from the Sri Lankans who were a distant second-best for the first two days. But they then batted with conviction in the second innings to amass 448 and bowled with real desire. The effort was led by Fernando's 11-over spell and backed up by Pradeep, who could well have bowled himself into the Test side, and he took the key scalp of James Hildreth who was the Lions' last real hope.
The second half of this match included a host of positives for the visitors, beginning with the 200-run opening partnership and then the performance of the fast bowlers who made the most of a howling gale from their back. Sri Lanka's pace attack is still their weakest suit heading into Cardiff, but they will have taken huge confidence from this performance.
Hunting down 222 in 73 overs, the Lions had moved to 58 for 1 when Fernando began to make inroads. Bowling with the wind - which was actually a gale - from his back he gave James Taylor a roughing up with some short bowling before trimming his off stump with an excellent delivery. In his next over he claimed Bopara, to complete a tough day for the Essex man, when another short delivery brushed his glove as he failed to get out of the line.
Morgan, who received good news last night from national selector Geoff Miller, came and went in a flash. He pulled his first ball to midwicket but two deliveries later pushed forward at a good length delivery and edged to second slip where Mahela Jayawardene, who dropped two in the first innings, was back in safe-hands mode.
During the afternoon session Dilshan largely used his spinners into the howling wind so that his quicks could benefit from the assistance. Hildreth and Samit Patel set about reviving the innings from 67 for 4 although Patel should have gone on 20 when he tried to hit down the ground with the wind and Thisara Perera, at long-off, made a mess of judging the catch. Patel then flashed a low catch to gully where the fielder was slow to move. Either side of his two lives he played some handsome strokes until being given lbw when height looked an issue to end a stand of 61.
After tea the Lions suffered another swift slump. Firstly Jonny Bairstow poked a catch back to Pradeep who took it well in his follow through and then Ajmal Shahzad was lbw to the first ball of a new spell from Perera, a pace bowler given a rare burst into the wind. Hildreth had played calmly for his 38 but then flicked a catch straight to deep square-leg where it was well held by Dinesh Chandimal.
It meant Thilan Samaraweera's stubborn 74, which extended the lead beyond 200, proved crucial. The Sri Lankans had lasted another 14 overs on the final morning as Steven Finn and Jade Dernbach wrapped up the innings. Dernbach, who took 5 for 44 in the first innings, ended with career-best match figures of 9 for 138 but, as Sri Lanka showed the fight that has made them such a successful team, they ended up in a losing cause. England will need to be switched on come Thursday.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo