Cook shines but others struggle
England XI 303 for 8 (Cook 163*) lead Sri Lanka Board XI 169 by 134 runs
Alastair Cook picked up where he left off in the UAE with an unbeaten 163 on the second day of England's warm-up match against a Sri Lanka Board XI, but the middle-order display was less convincing with Ian Bell and Matt Prior collecting ducks.
Cook showed the durable qualities that England will need during the Test series as he faced 293 deliveries to take the total to 303 for 8 at the close, a lead of 134, which continued his run of form from the one-day series against Pakistan where he scored two hundreds and an 80.
Cook added 89 for the first wicket with Andrew Strauss (40) and 59 with Kevin Pietersen (39) for the third, but from 188 for 2 England slipped to 247 for 8 as legspinner Malinga Bandara and offspinner Sachithra Serasinghe caused problems. Of particular concern was another failure for Bell who endured a miserable Test series against Pakistan with 51 runs in six innings where he was constantly bamboozled by Saeed Ajmal.
It was an offspinner that dismissed him again when he was bowled second ball by Serasinghe who could yet be the man to partner Rangana Herath in the Test series. Ravi Bopara, seemingly pencilled in for the No. 6 spot as a replacement for Eoin Morgan, made 12 off 55 deliveries before falling lbw to Dilruwan Perera and Matt Prior got an inside edge against Kaniskha Alvitigala.
"To get 300 in a day is a great effort from the team. Today was my day to carry on and I'm sure some other people are disappointed it wasn't their turn," Cook said. "With Ravi's shot, we were trying to push on then. We can only bat 100 overs in the first innings so we were trying to score at four an over which is tough with a long outfield and a ball that was pretty soft by the end.
"With Belly, you can always miss one early doors. He's a world-class player. His record over 18 months is that of a world-class player. He had a poor series in Abu Dhabi but I'd expect him to bounce back and I'm sure he will do.
"And Straussy spent a couple of hours out there and hit some nice shots too. It's a flat wicket and it doesn't spin too much but it was quite hard to score quickly with the outfield. It's a grind, that's what happens in these conditions."
Bandara picked up two more wickets and it appeared England would be bowled out before the close, but James Anderson supported Cook in an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 56 with Cook continuing to push along with ease.
England had made confident progress during the morning session as Strauss spent valuable time in the middle until falling lbw on the back foot against Perera shortly before lunch. Jonathan Trott became Bandara's first wicket but seemed far from happy with the lbw decision he received.
Pietersen began in positive style by using his feet against the spinners and employing the sweep and momentum was building for England as they took the lead. However, when Pietersen was given lbw against Serasinghe the ensuing collapse was a timely reminder that the next few weeks will be another severe test for this batting line-up.