Roland-Jones seizes advantage for Lions
Sri Lanka A 29 for 4 (Weerakkody 15*) trail England Lions 316 (Westley 97, Roland-Jones 82, Livingstone 59, Pushpakumara 4-97) by 287 runs
Toby Roland-Jones struck 82 from No. 9 and then claimed two wickets in his first over as Sri Lanka A slipped to 29 for 4 in reply to England Lions' first-innings 316 on the first day in Pallekele. The Lions had recovered from 61 for 3 and 210 for 8 to post a substantial score before ripping into the hosts' top order.
Having chosen to bat, the Lions lost Haseeb Hameed and Nick Gubbins in the opening four overs, Asitha Fernando striking twice. Keaton Jennings, captaining the tourists, then fell to Sri Lanka Test offspinner Dilruwan Perera for 23 before lunch, bowled attempting to reverse-sweep.
Tom Westley, who made 95 in a warm-up game earlier in the week, helped fashion a recovery in partnership with Liam Livingstone, as the fourth-wicket pair put on 126 in 27 overs. Westley struck 14 fours and a six but fell short of a century when hooking Kasun Rajitha to a deep leg slip; Livingstone also departed three overs later, the first of four wickets for Malinda Pushpakumara.
Pushpakumara struck either side of tea, removing Sam Curran, Tom Curran and Ben Foakes cheaply, as the Lions lost 5 for 21 to squander some of their advantage. Sri Lanka A were unable to wrap up the innings quickly, though, as Ollie Rayner - selected ahead of Jack Leach - helped add 38 for the ninth wicket and then No. 11 Tom Helm held up an end in a stand of 68 as Roland-Jones thumped eight fours and three sixes before being last out.
"At 210 for eight, having been 189 for three, you worry about throwing a good position away," England selector Angus Fraser said. "Getting bowled out for under 250 would have been disappointing from that position. So to inch your way up 10 runs at a time and end up with 316, you're in the game. It was a good recovery. But there were a couple of good innings at the front end by Westley and Livingstone as well.
"Westley batted beautifully. Losing two early wickets he was under a bit of pressure, going out there far earlier than he would have thought. But he and Livingstone manoeuvred the ball around really well, put the bad balls away, took the easy singles that were on offer, and looked in total control. It was good to see. Certainly for Liam, he's not played a lot of first-class cricket yet, so to see him strike the ball as well as he did was good - and the same with Tom, he was unbelievably strong off his legs."
Sri Lanka A fielded several players with Test match experience, including the openers, Udara Jayasundera and Dimuth Karunaratne. Both had been dismissed inside eight deliveries, however, and Roland-Jones quickly picked up his second wicket - both dismissals lbw - to leave Sri Lanka A 12 for 3.
Sandun Weerakkody, who made his international debut on the recent tour of South Africa, briefly steadied the innings but, with the close looming, saw Roshen Silva edge Helm behind - another first-over wicket - to leave the Lions well on top.