Sri Lanka Board XI v England XI, Colombo, 2nd day March 16, 2012

Cook shines but others struggle

ESPNcricinfo staff

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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 17, 2012, 15:38 GMT

    @jmcilhinney - ReTrott - in test matches he'd be the 1st or 2nd pick re batsmen. People say "Form is temporary - Class is permanent" - I would say "Grit and heart are permanent" and can't be taught. In a pressure situation I'd back Trott over Bopara and Bell any day. As I've put before I don't remember Bell or Bopara coming in to a high pressure situation and winning/saving the day for us. I remember Trott scoring a 100 in his test debut vs Australia in a close series and when he was a controversial selection as Ramps was on fire in the county game

  • John on March 17, 2012, 15:38 GMT

    @VillageBlacksmith on (March 17 2012, 10:30 AM GMT) Harsh words but unfortunately I agree with most of them. I'm not 100% sure about Patel either , but that is because he is unproven either way. The lack of strength in depth with the batsmen we have for me is another reason for going for a 5/1/5 formation. Like you say the bowlers did a decent job but I'd say Sanga , Jaya and co will take alot more shifting than this lot and surely an extra bowling option would come in very useful under such circumstances esp in the SL heat and to me you have to weigh up how much damage would Bopara , Bell (in his present form) or Patel do with the bat compared to what Finn or Bres would do with the ball. Also we do need to win this series , a draw is no good and to win we have to bowl SL out twice and surely a 5 man attack stands us in better stead .I know I'm probably on my own here - well one other guy agreed with me - but it's what I believe in.

  • Parthiban on March 17, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    Where is jonesy? No story on England is complete without a comment from that lad! Go Australia!

  • R on March 17, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    It was only a SL 3rdXI I know but the bowlers were good again, even with Broad out. I can't see where I R Bell's next run is coming from, as Eng not playing B'desh for a while... the Shermanator has never been a man for a crisis, or to tough it out, or a match winner, (zero solus tons) but even after his wretched performance in UAE a 2nd ball duck vs a SL 3XI youth team surprised even me. Bopara has never been the answer either, prefer Samit anyday, or even still Morgan, and let Gooch earn his expensive corn to turn Morgan around. At least Morgan still has potential, something Bopara does not have, we have seen all there is to come from him. 2 vacancies in the top 6 at the mo imho.

  • Christopher on March 17, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    yorkshirematt, I think you will find that most of the other batsmen will lift - and I think you are forgetting that Pietersen has been in good form too. SL are an interesting combination who almost always provide excellent competition. I am looking forward to an intriguing series, particularly if Panesar and Swann are in combination again. Should be some gripping cricket.

  • Christopher on March 17, 2012, 9:11 GMT

    maximum6, I agree - Bell exudes class when his timing is on - as good as anyone. But for sheer grit, elegance and a capacity to adapt to all conditions, the Chef has established himself already as one of the truly great batsmaen of the era.

  • John on March 17, 2012, 9:08 GMT

    A bit of a one man show with the bat. For me Bell needs a decent inns to retain his place but as he is not a bowler where we have top class options , I'm sure he'll retain his place no matter what. Would go along with resting Cook for the next one and see what Patel can do. Obviously I'd like to see haw 5 bowlers would do but England don't like changing a winning formula - even though 3 defeats in a row does not equate winning formula in my eyes.

  • Mark on March 17, 2012, 7:38 GMT

    Bad day for jonsey! Swann 3-22, destroys the opposition, Panesar doesn't take a wicket and England set to win by an innings and plenty. This has been a far more convincing performance than the equivalent game in the UAE, with the negative that we are winning so easily that players who need a bat aren't going to get one, but that is a sacrifice that I am prepared to make.

  • Amila on March 17, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    looking at the score card of SLBD one has to say future is looks grim for the SL cricket, well then again this is what u can expect when they included drop outs( players who already failed in the international level) from the national side to the development team

  • John on March 17, 2012, 4:33 GMT

    I'll be interested to see what happens on this last day. Will the SLB XI just bat on or will they try to put on quick runs for 1 1/2 to 2 sessions and then declare? If they do declare, what batting order will England go with? Cook is the only one who you could really say could do without the extra time in the middle but Bell and Bopara are the ones who need it most. If they were to open with Bell and Bopara, they may then be depriving Strauss, Trott and Pietersen of time that could be valuable to them too. I'd say that they'd probably drop Cook down the order, as they did in UAE, and open with Strauss and Trott, followed by Bell, Pietersen and Bopara. The problem is always that they want the early batsmen to do well so the later ones might not get a chance. I think that they should go with that order and leave Cook out for the second game. They can then bring in Patel and give Bopara another shot.

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