England Lions v Sri Lanka A, Tri-series, Taunton August 6, 2014

Lions victory points to healthy domestic game

Vithushan Ehantharajah at Taunton

England Lions 339 for 5 (Hales 101, Bopara 74, Gamage 3-59) beat Sri Lanka A 288 (Chandimal 73, Gunathilaka 57, Patel 3-71) by 51 runs

England Lions started off their triangular series with New Zealand and Sri Lanka with the sort of win that suggests, for all the sniping, the domestic game is in good order.

They posted a total of 339, thanks to a fine hundred from Alex Hales, solid anchoring from Ravi Bopara and two brutal cameos from Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.

Roy was responsible for the game's most memorable moment - an over of orthodox spin from Sachith Pathirana that was pillaged for five sixes. "There's just one word for that," Hales began, as he effused about Roy's cameo, "special".

Hales also spoke earnestly about a troubled 2013 against the red ball and a desire to challenge himself to correct that. It is a challenge he has completed, with more than 800 first-class runs and seven scores above fifty, including two centuries. It is not so much that Hales is enjoying a good run of form, it is that he looks a more complete player. He has set himself a new challenge - to break into the England ODI set-up, something that a number of players in that dressing room are keen to do.

The bowlers did not do themselves too many favours today, Harry Gurney in particular fluffing his slower balls for some comical wides. To be fair to him, this is probably the game to try them. He and a select few from this squad will have many more chances to hone their one-day tricks in the future.

After the final Test at The Oval, England will be in pyjamas for 16 ODIs, leading into the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in February. While gripes about the schedule are justified, with England travelling to Sri Lanka in November for a seven match series, the priority has been set.

After the loss of James Vince, Hales and Bopara began a second wicket stand that would eventually reach 165, before they both fell in one Lahiru Gamage over. Their stand was all the more impressive given that between the ninth and the start of the 32nd over, they had nothing but spin to work with. While Bopara used his wrists, Hales swept straight deliveries like a man half his size.

Whether Hales starts the World Cup at the top of the order remains to be seen, but this was an important 22 over period, which allowed him to showcase his range in building an innings.

With all the talk of fast, bouncy pitches down under, the last Australian domestic season saw slower tracks expose limited-overs batsmen who were unable to maneouvre the ball around the field. England themselves came undone on a stick, drop-in wicket at Adelaide when chasing just 212. Even the big hitters need to nurdle.

Unlike the standard Hales innings, there were no maximums. That business was left to Jason Roy, who brought his T20 funk to the West Country from South London, clearing the boundary six times in a 25-ball cameo of 51.

Five of them came in one over, as Pathirana was treated with brutal amounts of disdain. All were hit down the ground; the first staying in the ground, the rest either denting the press box or sailing over it. The fifth ball of the over was nudged back to the bowler, eliciting boos from the Taunton faithful.

With further heft added on to the score by Bairstow's heavy clubs down the ground, Sri Lanka were always going to struggle. They were helped out by a passage of not very clever bowling and some lackluster fielding that saw a handful of run out chances spurned and Dinesh Chandimal and Danushka Gunathilaka eat into their target.

But some wily seam from Bopara allowed James Taylor to control the middle overs. As the run rate started to climb, more risks were taken, allowing Boyd Rankin, Craig Overton, Ravi Patel and Gurney to take a few wickets to close the game out.

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  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    Oh and I also agree with the thoughts of Paul_Somerset that he could be picked as a bowler alone as he has been England's best shorter format bowler over the last year

  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2014, 8:38 GMT

    I am a big fan of Bopara, I just find it a bit odd that when playing for England they insist on him being the finisher and batting 6 or 7, yet with the Lions he tends to bat 3 or 4. Give him some consistency.

  • Samuel on August 7, 2014, 9:11 GMT

    @jmcilhinney - don't think you can just shove Hales in as a panacea for England's ODI batting, all the pressure to score quickly then falls on him and it gives the likes of Bell even more excuse to plod along. England just need to revamp their batting line-up in general, get better ball strikers in, players who can actually accelerate through an innings, unlike Cook & Bell, and get a better balance. Conditions in the World Cup dictate it, as do England's bowling attack, which no longer will defend 270 nine times out of 10 like it would two years ago.

  • Android on August 7, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    chandimal should bat no 3 or 4 hes the best young cricketer

  • Dummy4 on August 7, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    chandimal really doing well at the moment

  • John on August 7, 2014, 0:20 GMT

    I'm hoping that someone sees sense and replaces Cook in the ODI team with Hales. I think that Hales has earned a shot in the ODI team and, although I'm not as down on Cook as an ODI batsmen as many others, I do think that England need some more impetus at the top of the order. I also can't help thinking that taking ODI batting and captaincy off his shoulders should help Cook as both batsman and captain in the Test side.

  • Dummy4 on August 6, 2014, 23:27 GMT

    If Willey is in the England squad-fine. If he is not selected he ought to be released back to Northants. They do not have the strength in depth to be able to cope without him. One day, I think he'll surpass his father's achievements, but he's not going to do that by kicking his heels as a non-playing squad member.

  • Paul on August 6, 2014, 21:59 GMT

    Alex Hales played a proper innings. It's all clicked for him now and he really ought to be opening the batting in Tests.

    Ravi Bopara was simply different class from everybody else on the field as a bowler. He's got the lot: fast bouncers off slow run-ups, impossible-to-hit slower balls, cutters. If only he were picked as a bowler who could bat at number eight, he'd be considered world-class. He's still a run-out waiting to happen though.

    Jason Roy was extraordinary. Haven't seen such clean, effortless 6-hitting at Taunton since Kieron Pollard when he was still good.

    Ravi Patel and Overton were both tidy and level-headed, Rankin was a very hard man to bat against, Gurney was horribly inconsistent, Bairstow seemed to have a hole in his gloves when keeping, but scored effectively at the death.

    Chandimal was a class above the rest of the Lankan batsmen. Ramith Rambukwella had a stop-start bowling action like Hafeez and Ashwin. He could become a very difficult bowler to face.

  • Paulo on August 6, 2014, 19:52 GMT


    I've said before that Luke Fletcher is doing well and potentially could be a useful death bowler so maybe he should get a go.

    I'm glad Tom Smith got a go and I hope Willey does as well. Stokes and Woakes have not done too well in white-ball cricket for England or for their counties.

    I'd take out Bopara for Willey, as both ought to be considered allrounders. I'd change one of the bowlers, but the only reserve bowler is Parry. I'd keep Overton because he has potential, eventhough Rankin did well. Give the opportunity to a youngster with potential of whom not much is known.

    Let Taylor bat in the top 3. His record suggests he is clearly good enough.

    Next game: 1.Hales 2.Vince 3.Taylor 4.Roy 5.Bairstow 6.Willey 7.Smith 8.Overton 9.Patel 10.Parry 11.Gurney

  • Paulo on August 6, 2014, 19:45 GMT

    Good to see the Lions win.

    Hales should be in the side, but it's very hard for anybody to dislodge the royal couple at the top. Look at how Lumb was discarded after 3 games despite the debut hundred.

    This top order certainly has a different intent to the recent ODI top 4. However I don't think Bopara should bat 3. He has enjoyed a much more productive internationally career with the bat since becoming a finisher, and also had an excellent T20 Blast.

    Not sure why Gurney, Bopara are in the side as they are surely ODI definites. Also I would have preferred Bairstow to have stayed in county cricket for a bit longer, since he was going backwards in international cricket, but if he's playing well then I have no complaints. How was his keeping?

    When the initial squad was announces I couldn't understand why Overton was in it. What's he done in county cricket to merit a place? Since Finn's gone I can't understand why Rankin replaced him. Let him go back to Ireland and select a youngster.

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