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March 17, 2012
England XI 303-8 declared (Cook 163*, Bandara 3-58) beat Sri Lanka Board XI 169 (Anderson 4-19, Panesar 5-37) and 119 (Anderson 3-21, Finn 3-24, Swann 3-33) by an innings and 15 runs
England still harbour doubts about their batsmen as they approach the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, but their bowling attack has quickly found the groove. The England attack was largely blameless during a 3-0 defeat against Pakistan and they could not have made better use of the first warm-up match, dismissing a Board President's XI for 119 on the final day to force victory by an innings and 15 runs.
James Anderson took three more wickets to finish with 7 for 40 in the match and there were also three apiece for his fellow fast bowler, Steve Finn, and the offspinner Graeme Swann. With Monty Panesar also among the wickets in the first innings, England only need Stuart Broad to prove his fitness in the final practice match to reach Galle in good heart.
Anderson said the intensity with which his team played the practice match will serve the tourists well. "I thought it was a pretty good three days for us with both bat and ball," he said. "We could not have asked for more. There are sterner challenges ahead but all we can do is play what is put in front of us. We know full well it is going to get harder throughout the tour with the heat and the opposition."
The only downside was that their victory was so swift it prevented any of their out-of-form batsmen, primarily Ian Bell, from spending more time at the crease. They had declared on 303 for 8 overnight, a lead of 134, their authority established largely through Alastair Cook's unbeaten 163.
Sri Lanka cricket will be unnerved by the extent of the defeat. They selected a young side, but only two of the top seven reached double figures second time around.
It took England only three balls to strike when Ashen Silva, who top-scored with 66 in the first innings, carved the third ball of the innings, from Anderson, to point. Finn also struck with the new ball when Bhanuka Rajapaksa, an attacking left-hand batsman who impressed in the 2010 Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka, edged an attempted drive to Swann at second slip. One unexpected blemish in England's display came from Anderson, whose reliability at slip is taken for granted, but who dropped three chances off the spinners in the match. Dimuth Karunaratne benefited from a let-off, a difficult chance, but after he raised the fifty he was bowled by Swann for 31.
Prasanna Jayawardene, with 43 Tests to his name as well as a Test hundred against England, was the most recognisable opponent to the England attack, but he made only two runs in the match, falling for a duck second time around when Finn had him caught at second slip with the first ball of his second spell. Five wickets fell by lunch as Swann had Sachithra Serasinghe caught at short leg.
England's progression through Sri Lanka's lower order during the afternoon was marked by several moments of ill temper. Swann's frustration showed through when Panesar made a comically inept attempt to catch Dilruwan Perera off Swann.
England fielders then reacted angrily when the captain, Andrew Strauss, claimed a catch off Anderson, but Perera refused to take his word for it and stood his ground. The umpires conferred before Ravindra Wimalasiri, the umpire at square leg, indicated that he had not seen whether the ball had carried or not so could not confirm the catch. Perera was surrounded by half-a-dozen England players, protesting that in the absence of technology the captain's word should have been accepted.
The refusal of a run-out appeal against Malinga Bandara moments later further inflamed tensions, but it merely delayed the victory.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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