Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 2nd unofficial Test, Dambulla, 3rd day February 25, 2017

Lions face final-day battle for survival after Rayner's marathon

ECB Reporters Network

England Lions 353 (Livingstone 105, Westley 68, Pushpakumara 8-127) and 32 for 2 trail Sri Lanka A 548 (Karunaratne 212, Samarawickrama 185) by 163 runs
Scorecard

Ollie Rayner's marathon stint brought four wickets [file picture] © Getty Images

England Lions face a battle to avoid defeat in their second four-day match in Dambulla against a Sri Lanka A side battling to square the series.

Sri Lanka A took a commanding lead of 195 then took two wickets early in the Lions' second innings. When bad light stopped play with 23 overs of the day's allocation remaining, the Lions had been reduced to 32 for two, with Haseeb Hameed and Tom Alsop both undone by the early introduction of spin.

Malinda Pushpakumara, the left-arm spinner who took eight wickets in the first innings and four in each innings of the Lions victory in Kandy, opened the bowling and had Hameed caught behind for 16 in his fourth over, leaving the Lancashire and England opener with only 35 runs from his four innings in the series.

Alsop, the Hampshire left-hander who came in for Nick Gubbins in this match, fell lbw pushing forward to the off-spinner Dhananjaya De Silva in the next over, just before the umpires decided that the light was no longer playable.

So Tom Westley will resume with captain Keaton Jennings on the last day with the Lions still 163 runs behind - and facing the sort of test that is part of the purpose of development tours such as this.

The Lions had spent a total of more than 135 overs in the field in Dambulla's combination of heat and humidity, with Ollie Rayner bowling almost 50 of them.

Rayner is the sole survivor in this Lions team who played in a high-scoring draw at Dambulla three years ago, when he bowled a total of 44 overs without a wicket.

So figures of 48.2-8-164-4 represented a significant improvement for the 31-year-old Middlesex off-spinner, whose county team-mate Toby Roland-Jones also earned highly respectable figures of three for 67 from 20 overs.

"We've done 150 overs in the dirt there - that's tough," said Rayner. "And they played very well. I'm feeling like one of the older guys on the trip at the moment. But I think the boys stuck at it. We maybe struggled later on Saturday, let things drift a bit. But we came back today, especially after lunch.

"You have a lot of chances to take wickets when you bowl 48 overs. You can't just have one plan when you bowl in the sub-continent, because it doesn't go to plan, as we've seen today - 30 for 3 to 333 for 3. I feel like I've got a few more options than when I last came out here with the Lions three years ago.

"Unfortunately for us it was starting to turn a bit more at the end there. But hopefully with a bit of a dust and a roll overnight that should tidy it up."

There was a second wicket for Tom Curran, who had made the first breakthrough on Saturday morning as the Sri Lankans were reduced to 30 for three, and one for Somerset spinner Jack Leach - with Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes taking five catches, including a spectacular one-handed effort to give Curran the wicket of Pushpakumara.

Sadeera Samarawickrama and Dimuth Karunaratne, who had made the Lions toil for more than two sessions without a wicket on Saturday, extended their fourth-wicket partnership to 315 before Roland-Jones denied Samarawickrama a maiden double century with the second new-ball, trapping him lbw for 185 as he worked to leg.

But De Silva then joined Karunaratne to add further punishment in a fifth-wicket stand of 131 in 28 overs.

To take the last six wickets for 72 represented a decent fightback by the Lions, with Rayner claiming three of them. First he had De Silva caught behind down the legside for 74 from 95 balls, and four overs later the left-handed Karunaratne outside-edged a drive to Tom Curran at backward point.

The opener, who is expected to return to Sri Lanka's Test team for the forthcoming home series against Bangladesh, had posted a new first-class career best of 212 from 319 balls - and Rayner in particular must be sick of the sight of him, as he made 156 here against the Lions three years ago.

Roshen Silva then pushed a return catch to Roland-Jones, before Foakes leapt to his right to dismiss Pushpakumara, and then claimed his fifth victim when Jeffrey Vandersay edged a cut at the persevering Leach.

Rayner claimed the last wicket courtesy of an excellent one-handed catch by Alsop diving forward from short leg, but the Lions already knew they were in for a battle.

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