England Lions v Sri Lanka A, Tri-series, New Road August 11, 2014

Bopara enjoys his chance to build rather than blast


England Lions 285 for 3 (Bopara 106, Taylor 103*) beat Sri Lanka A 283 for 6 (Chandimal 119, Finn 4-67) by seven wickets

To many observers, the England Lions top six contesting the Royal London triangular series against Sri Lanka A and New Zealand A loses little in comparison with the senior side as jostling for position begins in earnest with the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand barely six months away.

Four Lions batsmen have already made hundreds in the tournament with Ravi Bopara and James Taylor the latest to achieve the standards set by Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow. It was enough to dispatch Sri Lanka by seven wickets with 21 deliveries to spare as they made light of a target of 284 on a pitch which was about as accommodating as New Road, rarely the most straightforward square for batsman, can get.

As soon as The Oval Test is concluded, it is one-day cricket all the way and, if few regard England as serious World Cup contenders, there is no doubting the abundance of batting talent in the shadow squad. Bopara looked visibly excited by their potential. "Every single player in the top six has definitely got a chance of being in that World Cup squad," he said. "Some of these young guys have improved so much."

Bopara is the one Lions batsman with an established place in England's one-day side, but coming in at No. 6 in a safety-conscious set-up is a role not always designed for satisfaction. For the Lions, he has been given the chance to bat at No. 3, an opportunity he has cherished, and his 106 from 101 balls in front of an appreciative Worcester crowd was an expertly-judged affair which left Sri Lanka without a win in the tournament. England face New Zealand, again at New Road, on Tuesday in a match that will decide the winners.

"It would be nice to be playing for Essex but getting experience at the top of the order for England certainly helps," Bopara said. It wouldn't be very helpful for me to come here at bat six. That's not me being arrogant or anything. Any batsman wants time at the crease. You don't want to be coming in to bat in the last 10 overs to try to spank it out of the ground every single time. I don't enjoy my cricket doing that sort of stuff."

England were assisted by some curious captaincy by Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka's century maker, who observed the legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna remove both Alex Hales and James Vince in a spell of 2 for 12 in five overs and who then did not reintroduce him until the 33rd over at which point the Lions were 175 for 2, Bopara and Taylor both had unbeaten half-centuries and with six an over needed the match was almost won.

By the time Bopara was stumped off Prasanna for 106, the third-wicket stand was worth 194 in 31 overs, and he had strutted his stuff, Taylor played with understated authority alongside him. Taylor might have fallen on 2 when Dushmantha Chameera's first ball reared at him with surprising venom only for a trio of off-side fielders to fail to make ground for the catch. He made excellent use of his fortune, his skilfully-assembled hundred seeping into the consciousness.

Prasanna's delayed return to the attack was particularly striking because three years ago on this ground, in an identical fixture, he took the new ball and included the Lions' top six in a return of 6 for 23 as they were dismissed for 108 and lost by 10 wickets. Sri Lanka were so impressed they immediately summoned him to the senior side although he has had limited success in his sole Test, against Australia in Pallakele, and a dozen ODIs.

"Did I play in that game?" asked Bopara when told of it. He was slightly relieved to discover he had not. Three of that top six - Hales, Taylor and Bairstow - did, and Hales succumbed again as he edged to the keeper. James Vince had been bowled in the previous over, Prasanna's second, his 32 impressive while it lasted but not lasting long enough, leaving him as the only member of the Lions top six still to pass fifty.

Chandimal's unbeaten 119 had sustained Sri Lanka. The innings came to life from 126 for 3 after 33 overs - David Willey conceding 16 off an over including a pulled six from Chandimal which took him to 50, Steven Finn spilling 18 from the next, Bhanuka Rajapakse sparking with four boundaries in an over during an adventurous stay at the crease.

An attempted sweep off Finn was just one shot that caught the eye - not the most respectful way to treat an England fast bowler who returned to London immediately after the game in the hope of making his international return against India on Friday in the final Test at The Oval.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2014, 7:06 GMT

    chandimal is not the captain of the Sri Lanka A,It's Ashan Priyangen.

  • Ray on August 12, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    Go for broke. My team: Hales, Roy, Bopara, Morgan, Bairstow, Buttler, Tredwell, Jordan/ Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Finn

  • John on August 12, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    @josphe on (August 12, 2014, 2:17 GMT), there's a school of thought that says it's because he's too short. I don't see why a player being short should be considered a disadvantage though. Surely it means that the bowlers are going to have to change their lengths somewhat. The area that would be considered "short" on the pitch is closer to the batsman and the "good length" area is smaller. The bowlers still can't bowl over his head or more than two deliveries over his shoulder per over so what's the issue?

  • Paulo on August 12, 2014, 5:26 GMT

    @markatnotts There are 3 ODI series before the world cup. Vs India at home England should try something completely different and compare it to the current system (albeit against different but still high quality ODI opposition). Vs Sri Lanka away they go for something in between (though any side we pick in Sri Lanka will get obliterated, and the conditions will be very different to Australia/New Zealand). For the tri series we pick our side to "win" the world cup.

    Does anybody think Cook should go as ODI captain. With next year's ridiculous schedule players will be rested. Cook test captain Morgan white-ball. Would ensure captain never rested. Would also give Cook from now to April to have a holiday then work on his test game.

  • Nimal on August 12, 2014, 4:48 GMT

    Isn't Priyanjan is the captain ? In the score card he has named as the captain. Yeah Dusmantha Chameera can bowl fast only problem is the lack of consistency. He should give a chance in NZ test series in the end of year.

    @Prem2248 Agree about Priyamal perera and Viswa Fernando both are promishing players who are in the bench yet to play in the series. Don't know what is the reason. But KJP is injured and he is returned home 3 weeks back that is why he is not playing.

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2014, 4:14 GMT

    If SLC want chandimal play him at number 3 or 4 shifting 1 of seniors to number 5..it will strength the depth of our team even!

  • siddhartha on August 12, 2014, 3:14 GMT

    Bell and Hales should open in ODI's with Cook at no 3. I will be surprised if they drop Bell from opening pair.

    My Team- 1. Hales 2. Bell 3. Cook 4.Root 5. Morgan 6.Bopara 7.Buttler 8. Broad 9.Anderson 10.Tredwell/Jordan 11. Finn

  • dylan on August 12, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    I am always left to wonder why James Taylor hasn't played more cricket at the highest level for England. He has the best record in all the youngsters barring Balance. Surely there is something beyond the cricket field that is stopping him from playing for England. You'd think someone with a List A average nearing 50 would've atleast played more than 2 matches against Ireland.

  • Cricinfouser on August 12, 2014, 1:56 GMT

    wasnt Priyanjan the captain of SL A ? not Chandimal.. Chandimal proves again that he should bat up in the order..

  • Nimmie on August 12, 2014, 1:02 GMT

    star players (PriyamalPerera) of the youth WC & Asia Cup 2014 only player to be included in this touring squad among the youth squad of 2014 is not given a single opportunity to play up to now. Even Kusal Janith (1st Cl Ba Av 48+) named as Vice-captain too has been confined to the bench for make way for the favorites of selectors, it is only in our country these dubious selections been happening at consistent basis (in all levels). It is learned that, for foreign tours the babes go after politicians to book their ticket in the team. The ignorant politicians & selectors too are yet to learn that they are doing a great damage to the good image of the country's Cricket in fielding too many ordinary players, a time when the correct thing to do is to field the worst enemy's son if he was the best available. Though, 1stClAv of a player is the bench mark to assess the quality of a player these selectors & local media disregard all that to field favorites (low grade players). Stats C'info

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