England buoyant after crushing warm-ups
England Under-19s will head to Sri Lanka in buoyant mood after a comprehensive 3-0 win in their tour matches against a Malaysian XI. The three games had originally been designed with acclimatisation in mind, but after an unexpected 11-0 whipping in Bangladesh, this mini-series had taken on an added significance, not to say pressure.
The team shrugged off any concerns with the latest two matches held over the weekend which confirmed that their first win - a 172-run victory earlier in the week - was indeed no fluke. "We played some decent cricket and won quite convincingly," the coach Andy Pick told Cricinfo. "I was very pleased with the way we went about our cricket to win the games.
"It's been a worthwhile exercise. We have put some systems and processes which will stand us in good stead for the World Cup. The players now have confidence and know how to stick to their role."
Malaysia unexpectedly chose to bat in Saturday's match and posted 216 all out under some tight England bowling. Late on in the innings, Moeen Ali and Huw Waters helped themselves to three wickets each as Malaysia tried to hit out under mounting pressure.
Mark Stoneman and Mark Nelson got England's reply off to a flyer, both hitting the mark with a decent total, but both falling just short of their fifty. Ali went one better, delivering a knock-out innings of 76 from just 52 balls. Together he and Rory Hamilton-Brown, who made 20 not out, took England to a seven-wicket win with a whopping 14 overs to spare.
Nelson, a late call-up to the side, put down a marker in the third warm-up match on Sunday. He made a solid 38 and then took 3 for 34, knocking over the top three batsmen. The Man-of-the-Match award, though, went to Steven Mullaney for his 57 which lifted England to 224 for 9 from their 50 overs. They soon had Malaysia in trouble in their reply, although the home side recovered from 18 for 4 to struggle to 138. England won by 103 runs.
The matches also gave England the chance to try out the Supersub and PowerPlay rules, innovations which Pick believes could favour his side. "Teams have more flexibility and it helps if you have a good tactical captain." Talking of which, Ali has taken to his new captaincy role like a duck to water. "He's done a fantastic job. He's done really, really well."
South Africa and India will provide formidable opposition in the final few practice matches in Sri Lanka. "We will still be trying to fine tune things. We've still got a couple of positions in the team - it's not cut and dried. For now we can look forward with confidence. We are now looking forward to playing for real."
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo