Sri Lanka A v England Lions, unofficial Test, Kandy, 1st day February 12, 2014

Moeen's grace adorns Lions' wasteful day


England Lions 299 for 9 (Taylor 70, Moeen 62, Prasad 3-66, Kaushal 3-88) v Sri Lanka A

Moeen Ali's drives 'worth the admission fee alone'

England were hoping to find something a little different from their next generation but the way England Lions carelessly collapsed after tea on the opening day in Pallekele suggested their wider pool of players are capable of the same fallibility as their senior colleagues.

A commanding position at tea was flipped into a slippery situation with the loss of two wickets in two overs. Two more strikes in the half hour after the restart and England's strong standing had been swept from them. It was all very "England".

Moeen Ali played like a dream but slapped the first ball of the evening session - a long hop from left-arm spinner Chaturanga de Silva - to cover. Next over, Jonny Bairstow was given out lbw, fifth ball for nought - he would have looked happier had he been given a parking ticket with a flat tyre in the rain - and Chris Woakes popped up a leading edge to a diving mid-on. A second questionable decision, this time for caught behind, ended James Taylor's stay.

The collapse of 4 for 35 in 12 overs left England just short of 300 with their last pair at the crease when the day ended and Sri Lanka A cock a hoop. Their afternoon performance, where they were almost run ragged as England took tea at 206 for 3, did not warrant such a scoreboard.

They chose to bowl first, a decision far too keen on the grass left on the wicket, and after lunch even their two best operators, offspinner Tharinda Kaushal and seamer Dhammika Prasad, failed to find any control. It was a session when the Lions moved smoothly into a firm position and the slick strokemaking of Moeen was responsible for most of it.

England have observed Moeen for some time and his outstanding season in 2013 - his 1420 runs were the most by anyone in domestic cricket - has proved convincing, with a call up to this tour and selection for the World T20 squad next month.

He plays such beautiful strokes that his place in any side could be assured by the soothing pleasure gained by watching him. He is so relaxed at the crease, standing tall and motionless, bat hanging a foot off the ground, front foot turned slightly towards cover, until the delivery stride where an inch step of the back foot gets him going.

From there he has got all the shots. Plenty were on display in a breezy 62 in 60 balls - the half-century also coming at better than a run-a-ball. He began by flicking Kaushal past midwicket, two straight drives followed off Ishan Jayaratne - an expensive first-change seamer - the second so graceful a turquoise-winged bird felt it necessary to fly over the ball as it crossed the boundary.

It felt unfair that it did not last longer, particularly after a top-edged pull the ball before tea landed short of mid-on, running in. Surely, that was all the luck he needed? Not so, as Upal Tharanga got down low to his right to catch Moeen the ball after tea.

It ended a rollicking period of scoring between Moeen and Taylor, who was hardly noticed in the stand of 92 in 110 balls - just fewer than five an over was the progress throughout the afternoon.

Taylor's style is not as pretty as Moeen, but he also played plenty of strokes pleasing on the eye. He was keen to lean a good way outside of his off stump to drive and used his feet well to the spinners, following Moeen's lead. He appeared within his rights to be aggrieved at being given out when his side were looking to him to take them up to 300. Crisis was averted to an extent with a nudging innings from Scott Borthwick, topped with a lofted drive for six over long-off.

It was certainly a card Sri Lanka A were looking for having decided to bowl first. With grass left on the wicket - locals reliably informed that not a blade would remain for a full international - they went into the field hoping to test their young attack, one of whom, Vishwa Fernando, a left-arm seamer, travelled with the Sri Lanka Test squad to Bangladesh despite having only played 15 first-class matches and with only 37 wickets at 37.62 to his name.

Fernando went wicketless in his 15 overs but his new ball partner, Prasad, was excellent, finding plenty of movement with the new ball and some bounce too, one early delivery rising over Sam Robson's attempted push off the back foot. He probed away persistently but having been replaced, Jayaratne struck immediately when Alex Lees was caught on the crease. Such is life.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Zubair on February 13, 2014, 12:06 GMT

    Moeen and Taylor seem the performing batsmen although Taylor has just gone back after making just 15 in the second innings. Interesting that Moeen needed only half the deliveries faced by Taylor (70 from 118balls) to score his 62 from 60balls. This tells you about the value proposition Ali put on show yesterday. Up until now he has hit 3 of the 6 sixes in this game.

    With the ball, almost half his spell consisted of maidens providing him with a miserly economy rate of 1.77 after 9 overs which is half the average economy of the team. One of his 2 wickets was the danger man Tharanga.

    Woakes done well to take 4 wickets but 3 maidens aside, his remaining 9 overs went for 45 (avg 5 per over) which is a tad bit high. Needs work to control the leakage. Onions did ok, Mills should have done better and not sure what Plunkett is doing there. Need a young, pacy and consistent 'Anderson' of a bowler with toe crushing yorkers in place of Plunkett.

    Expect better from rem of batsmen.

  • John on February 13, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (February 12, 2014, 16:40 GMT) That's one thing you get on these threads in abundance

  • John on February 13, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    It's pretty tough when you have a collapse of four wickets and two of them are dodgy calls. It was nice for the tail to add a few late runs as that's been something that England have lacked of late too but obviously top-order runs are what count. Three batsman made a decent score though, so that's not too bad. Bairstow will be very disappointed to have been denied the chance to show something with batting places up for grabs in the England team and Prior no certainty to return as keeper either. One has to wonder what the pitch is like, given SLA's terrible performance with the bat on the second morning. Maybe 330 was a good score, although Alex' description of the pitch makes it sound like maybe SLA just batted poorly or else the Lions bowlers were on fire.

  • ESPN on February 13, 2014, 6:32 GMT

    Will someone tell me what James Taylor's stats are for the Lions. I bet they are compelling. He is a grafter doesn't like to lose his wicket, great against spin and consistent. Top scored again and out with a poor decision. I am gob smacked that this English born guy isn't a permanent fixture in the full England squad. Look at his county and lions stats.

  • Dummy4 on February 13, 2014, 0:24 GMT

    Yeah, come on England, stop messing about and get James Taylor in the team. Forgotten man of English cricket while everyone around him gets praise, awards and call ups for doing less.

  • Paulo on February 12, 2014, 18:25 GMT

    Outrageous that Ballance isn't in the squad. He's not going to WI so should be here. Also would have liked to see Davies in the squad as he can both bat and keep. Bairstow should be forgotten about for a year or 2. Where did England get Foakes from? Surely he's stuck behind Foster at Essex? Has anyone seen him keep or bat?

  • Paulo on February 12, 2014, 17:42 GMT

    Good to see my picks (and pretty much everyone but England's picks) Taylor and Ali scoring. Interesting that the guy who always gets picked undeserved imo Bairstow scored a duck.

    Interesting balance to side. 3 allrounders. No front line spinner as such. Disappointed no Vince or Kerrigan.

    Many test places up for grabs. I reckon atm the team looks like: 1.Cook 2. 3. 4.Bell 5.Morgan 6.Stokes 7.Bairstow/Prior 8.Bresnan 9.Broad 10.Anderson 11.

    Root probably will play but they may decide to rest him. Or he could be batting anywhere. Makes Chopra's runs today interesting- let the openers battle.

    My team: 1.Cook 2.Root 3.Bell 4.Taylor 5.Moeen Ali 6.Davies 7.Stokes/Woakes/Borthwick 8.Broad 9.Jordan 10.Onions/Anderson 11.Kerrigan

    If Root needs a rest Ali to open and Ballance at 5

  • Ranil on February 12, 2014, 16:57 GMT

    If Tharindu shows a good form here I'm sure he will be in the plane to England in June.

  • Nicholas on February 12, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Isn't it rather silly to write these 'doom and gloom' articles before both sides have batted? O.K. I haven't watched or followed any of the game, but looking at the scorecard I see a 50, a 60 and a 70 from the guys. Yes there will be a few red faces (e.g. Bairstow) and wouldn't it have been nice for at least one or two of the guys that seemed to have 'settled in' to have gone on further; but until I see what happens tomorrow when England Lions bowl, defending 300 odd in the first innings doesn't seem "wasteful" to me.

  • Dean on February 12, 2014, 16:24 GMT

    I said yesterday that Moen & Taylor were the 2 class acts in this Lions outfit and looking at what has happened today that seems to have been correct. In terms of the test match batting line up Cook & Bell are the only 2 senior batsman to have survived the cull. I suspect they will stick with Root although they have to decide if he is better at the top or in the middle. I guess with the emergence of Stokes as the no6 then that leaves 2 places in the batting line up. If Root is therefore to open I would like to see Taylor given the whole summer at 3 with Bell at 4 & Moen at 5. I suspect if Morgan starts well in the CC for Middlesex they may well want to give him another try because potentially he can be explosive but I would really like to see Moen given his chance.

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