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Alex Winter in Pallekele
February 14, 2014
Sri Lanka A 171 and 161 for 5 require a further 315 runs to beat England Lions 330 and 319 for 8 dec (Woakes 92*, Borthwick 64)
Chris Woakes leads Lions victory push
Team spirit is top of the zeitgeist this year. England were depicted as a divided side during their Ashes whitewash and togetherness and playing for the team have been key phrases behind England's rebuilding blueprint and the purpose of dismissing Kevin Pietersen. Greed is not good.
But England Lions are one happy band of brothers, all sweating in the Sri Lankan dust in the quest of international cricket and improving the national game. They must be. Why else would Chris Woakes trot off the field, eight short of an eighth first-class century?
It would have been a fitting end for Woakes, who punched and nudged his way to spitting distance of three figures, to have brought up a century as skipper. He ensured the Lions slipped away from danger and set a target far out of sight for Sri Lanka A. For the last quarter of his innings he was in superb touch, strong on the drive and skipping down the wicket to lift Tharindu Kaushal over mid-off to take him into the 90s.
But on 92 not out and on course for a second first-class century in four innings, Woakes's partner, Scott Borthwick, ran past a delivery from Kaushal and was stumped. He walked off and Woakes went with him. England had declared. Woakes had declared. His hundred didn't matter. It was more beneficial for Tymal Mills to keep his pads off. Team spirit. One for all d'Artagnan (here played by Sussex coach Mark Robinson).
Borthwick delighted with Woakes partnership
The pair left the ground together. They had steered the Lions away from trouble with a stand of 155 for the seventh wicket. Their position had been edgy at 138 for 6 when Niroshan Dickwella took his second catch of the morning from the bowling of Dhammika Prasad. But Woakes and Borthwick dashed any lingering hopes the hosts had of a reachable target.
It was an obvious point at which to declare but with four-and-a-half sessions left in the match and the Sri Lankan order, on evidence of the first innings, more unstable than a Pallekele pavement, there was time for Woakes's century. It would not have been greedy on his behalf, it would have been a moment the team could have shared. First-class centuries are precious things.
The declaration brought a glimpse of a three-day victory and again England struck immediately. For the Lions to get the most out of this tour, their opposition needs to be far more competitive with the bat. International innings on the subcontinent are rarely finished before the second new ball is due - at least when seamers do most of the bowling. A long spell in the field would be beneficial and, on this evidence, Sri Lanka A will struggle to provide it.
This time Graham Onions bowled the opening over. The third ball, a back of a length delivery a foot outside off, was punched off the back foot by Udara Jaysundera, getting a thick outside edge between third slip and gully for four. Onions went fuller with the fifth ball and the batsman greedily drove without moving his feet and edged to first-slip.
Upal Tharanga played an even worse stroke. Woakes slid a delivery across him just back of a length, Tharanga swiped at it from the crease and Scott Borthwick held a smart catch above his head at second slip. Both openers played hideously irresponsibly. A target of 479 was a nominal one but the hosts need to ensure their futures are not hindered by a weak showing in this series. Perhaps Tharanga has no more future in international cricket.
But Madhawa Warnapura put in a display fitting of a top order player at this level. He was organised and left well, brave against Tymal Mills too. Chatharunga de Silva again played a classy innings and England's celebrations at his wicket were indicative of the respect they have for him.
Borthwick was given a bowl for the first time in the match, just a handful of overs in the last half-hour, and performed well. He beat the edge twice, asked several questions of Warnapura outside off stump and bowled two full tosses that were whacked over mid-on; it was standard fare from a talented, developing leggie.
But it was again Moeen Ali who delivered. He changed to the Media Centre End and had de Silva sharply held by James Taylor at short leg. Five wickets were left for the morrow.
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