England warmed up for the three-match One-day International series, which commences at the recently constructed Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on Friday, with a comfortable 51 run victory against a talented Sri Lankan Board President's XI today.
After the nail biting tension and high drama of the Test series, this was a soporific affair, more akin to a mid-summer English festival match, than the highly charged games that we can expect over the next week. This being the case it was no surprise that Graeme Hick stole the show, like he often does in the shires, with an awesome century.
Hick - another 100Photo CricInfo
Hick was well supported by an unusually breezy Michael Vaughan, who opened the batting in the absence of the rested Stewart and Trescothick. The pair added 206 runs in just 28 overs after the early loss of a rusty looking Mark Alleyne and guided England towards an imposing 279.
England then restricted the Sri Lankan board XI, who contained eight players with international experience, to 228 in an efficient performance, the highlight of which was an Andrew Caddick hat-trick at the death.
More importantly though, the one-day specialists were given a chance to stretch their legs and acclimatise to the searing heat, which has intensified in the last week. Both Alan Mullally (10-1-34-3) and Mark Ealham (8-0-37-1) impressed on their first outings.
Caddick - hat trickPhoto CricInfo
Hick played serenely for his first fifty, hitting the ball with his characteristic cleanliness. Having passed his 50, he went into overdrive and smashed 50 runs from just 17 balls. He hit seven sixes in all, two of which that sailed out of the ground and into the tooting streets of central Colombo.
He spoke afterwards about a difficult past week, in which he had been dropped from the Test side: "I was obviously very disappointed to miss out on the Test match. All through the winter I have been happy with the way I have been hitting the ball, but if you cannot take that out into the middle, it does not mean anything. I therefore enjoyed today as I was able to get in and spend some time at the crease."
Vaughan, renowned more for his grim determination and concentration than free flowing stoke-play, adopted an aggressive attitude after the initial calm of the opening overs and was soon shimmying down the wicket to the medium pacers. He enjoyed some early fortune and was dropped twice on 42, but by the end was batting with unexpected power and fluency.
Upon reaching the umpteenth century of his career, Graeme Hick was promptly retired and Michael Vaughan was bowled by Pasan Wanasinghe for 97. The one-day specialists then missed an opportunity to find some batting form before Friday. Nick Knight was caught behind for one, Andrew Flintoff pushed his way to 18 before being caught in the deep, and Mark Ealham was also caught on the boundary for 19.
The innings fell away as Akalanka Ganegama - a loose-limbed young bowler, who has impressed in domestic cricket this season - returned for a second spell and clean bowled three English tailenders to finish with four wickets in the innings.
The Sri Lankan reply was centred around a 75 run stand between Indika de Saram and Russel Arnold, the acting captain, after the loss of three early wickets, all caught behind by makeshift wicket-keeper, Mark Alleyne, the ultimate utility player.
When Indika de Saram skied a catch to Andrew Flintoff for 33 and Russel Arnold drove straight to short extra cover for 62, the Sri Lankan innings faded despite an unbeaten half-century by Thilan Samaraweera.