SL A v England Lions, 2nd unofficial Test, Dambulla, 2nd day

England reap Robson's unintended consequences

Alex Winter in Dambulla

February 20, 2014

Comments: 21 | Text size: A | A
Lions take control in Dambulla

England Lions 291 for 4 (Robson 142, Taylor 99*) lead Sri Lanka A 289 by two runs

Sam Robson's path towards England recognition has been affected by the law of unintended consequences, making him a subject Robert K. Merton would have craved when he brought the theory into the public domain in the 1930s.

Coincidentally, when Merton's paper was published in 1936, another Australia-born player was a huge part of English cricket. It remains to be seen whether Robson can create a legacy to sit alongside Gubby Allen but a fateful decision in 2008 has given him the chance.

A hundred to give England Lions control in Dambulla - his fourth century in five matches - brings him closer to following Allen from Sydney to Test cricket for England. And his stand of 197 with James Taylor, who finished the day tantalisingly one run away from his own century, has given England Lions control of the second unofficial Test.

Shunning university to play cricket, Robson was signed up to play for Normandy CC in the Surrey Championship. Making 91 on debut was a convincing start and almost immediately he was handed an opportunity by Middlesex. The next season, what started as a trip to further his cricket had turned into a professional career.

Robson pleased with batting performance

Cause No. 3 of Merton's unintended consequences is 'immediate interest'. Robson wanted to play cricket. He was forced to shift his life half way around the world. So be it. He began as a sporty child in Sydney's suburbs, fell in love with cricket in England, and could now reward the country which seduced him and gave him his new life.

Robson has seized his chance to become a composed opening batsman with a compact technique and a cool head, assets England could turn to as they begin a new era in the summer. If Robson is selected, two of his first three Tests will be on his home ground, the venue that hooked him.

Here he comfortably saw off the new ball, a lesser threat in the absence of Dhammika Prasad who joined the Sri Lanka ODI squad in Bangladesh, and began a steady accumulation against the spinners. Like for England's slow bowlers, there was little in the way of dangerous turn on what is a fairly slow wicket. Tharindu Kaushal struggled the most, conceding almost four-and-a-half an over.

Chaturunga de Silva did most of the bowling and provided a solid display given how easily England scored in the afternoon. Chatura Randunu, a left-armer providing a third spin option, also outbowled Kaushal.

Robson took three boundaries in a row off de Silva having passed fifty in 106 balls. The first was a shimmy down the wicket, lifting a drive over the bowlers head. The second a firm cut to a ball too short. The third a stupendous cover drive, the face of the bat opened to thread it through the gap between extra-cover and mid-off. It was perhaps his best shot.

Sam Robson made his second consecutive century, Warwickshire v Middlesex, County Championship, Division One, Edgbaston, 1st day, May 8, 2013
File photo: Sam Robson showed his appetite for run-scoring once again © Getty Images

There were plenty to choose from as Robson took another 64 balls for his hundred with 15 boundaries. After a lean time in Pallekele, he was back into the form that he seen him flourish this winter.

His summer ended on a weak note with a top score of just 45 from the final six Championship matches of the season, as Middlesex's title challenge flopped. But he excelled in Australia with consecutive hundreds for the England Performance Programme. Another hundred was added in the first warm-up match of this tour.

He does not have a technique to dazzle but has proved he possesses the mental capacity to make runs at the top of the order on a consistent basis. It is important he can prove he has the whole package for Test cricket. Runs may not be the full source of selection in the summer. Nick Compton put up an overwhelming case for a Test call up on paper - and continued to do so last season after being dropped - but the selectors decided, after two poor Tests, that he was not the man for them.

Robson could be. After tea he even treated himself to holding the pose through an exquisitely timed cover drive which sped away to the boundary.

He fell clipping a Kaushal full toss to midwicket where a sharp catch was held low down by Upal Tharanga - indicative of the way Sri Lanka A stayed game in the field; some of the work on the boundary was outstanding. Kaushal then bowled nightwatchman Ollie Rayner as the hosts took a little hope with them into the close that another fightback could be possible.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Harlequin. on (February 21, 2014, 12:49 GMT)

Just gonna wade in here because salazar555 has looked purely at single statistic, and then got annoyed when someone didn't agree with him - it is something that seems to be in fashion on comments boards, but it's just wrong

You see, thankfully selectors don't just look at a single number and think that is the answer to everything, that's why we have sentient beings as selectors and not computers. Selectors also look at recent form; Moeen was averaging 62.5 last season. Selectors also look at the players ability to perform under pressure; Moeen batted in a brittle Worcs line-up so was always under pressure to score. Selectors also look at technique, as it gives an indication of whether they can make the step up; Moeen's technique is not just solid, it is a work of art. Selectors also look at their ability to contribute in other departments; Moeen took crucial wickets last season.

Remember, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Posted by salazar555 on (February 21, 2014, 12:05 GMT)


What has a PCA award got to do with it? Whether he should be getting an award with a record like that is debatable. The numbers don't lie. He plays 2nd division cricket and averages 37. If I'm telling lies then point it out but don't argue against the facts. He should be no where near selection with with an average like that. So why is he?

Posted by LeeJA on (February 21, 2014, 11:30 GMT)


Probably something to do with him recently being names PCA Player of the Year and that he is a genuine all-rounder who would not only add with the bat (averages can be deceiving) but also with the ball! He is primarily a batsman who can bowl mind you so he shouldn't just be our spin option.

For me there are a number of names in the hat at the moment which is positive... Ali, Balance, Morgan, Taylor... all deserve a crack at the 4th/5th position imo dependent on what we are looking for - an all rounder with some spin variation? attacking flair? someone who will tick over the scoreboard?...all missing over the last year at times!

Posted by Jaffa79 on (February 21, 2014, 11:26 GMT)

I hope Taylor gets a go as he deserves it. He looks to have a good temperament too. Woakes is doing well but he seriously is not going to be good enough! Sorry to the Warks fans but he looks pedestrian with the ball and will never get good batters out and he is a Test no.8. Stokes is miles better. Would Woakes get a Test ton against Johnson at Perth? No. My Test team is: Cook, Root, Taylor, Bell, Ali, Stokes, Prior, Broad, Onions, Anderson, Panesar. Panesar is the best we have although I would be tempted to go in with Ali as the only spinner in early season conditions and play another bat (probably fatboy Ballance). Hopefully Trott gets well soon as that batting looks thin! Oh and to the people picking Borthwick - he doesn't bowl for Durham and was poor in grade cricket: how do you think he'll go against Indian and Sri Lankan batsmen?

Posted by salazar555 on (February 21, 2014, 11:01 GMT)

M Ali averages 37 in FC cricket. I don't why his fan club seem to think he's going to walk into the test team, especially as it's 37 in 2nd division county cricket. Taylor is knocking on the door, as is Robson and Woakes. I don't think any will start the first test in the summer though, I think it will be:

Cook, Root, Bell, Ballance, Morgan, Stokes, Butler, Borthwick, Broad, Anderson Onions

Posted by Owster81 on (February 21, 2014, 9:24 GMT)

I think Taylor has probably done enough now for a test spot unless he has a terrible start to the CC. My team would be 1.Cook 2.Root 3.Bell 4.Taylor 5.Ali 6.Stokes 7.Butler 8.Borthwick 9.Broad 10.Anderson 11.Wood/Jordan

Possibly Morgan for Borthwick if Ali's spin will be enough.

Posted by LeeJA on (February 21, 2014, 4:44 GMT)

I haven't seen too much of him but he seems to be getting big scores in the England whites which is positive. A loss of form in towards the end of the season doesn't matter too much for me, every player goes through bad patches of form on the county circuit now and then in his career; the big test is making 100s for England and no matter the quality of the opposition he seems to be doing that. I'd be inclined to see him, Ali and Taylor given a go:

Cook, Robson, Bell, Taylor, Ali, Prior, Stokes, Broad, Borthwick, Woakes/Jordan, Anderson

Looks a good balance of experience and youth for me. It would be unfortunate for Root but he is still evolving as a player and will be given plenty of future opportunities!

Posted by Carl2011 on (February 20, 2014, 23:19 GMT)

Barely a mention of James Taylor again? What does the guy need to do before he earns a little praise? He averages about a 100 for the Lions but no one seems to mention it!!

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 20, 2014, 20:13 GMT)

@olsedcopian Yes. We know. He started last season brilliantly but, after the mid-season break, the talk about a Lions tour and an England call-up seemed to make him nervous and his form vanished. The point has been made that his recent First Class form has been poor - that is what happened. When the pitches were juicy and conditions difficult in the first half of the season he scored a lot of runs and, with Chris Rogers, carried the Middlesex batting. It's part of the process of maturing and he is far from the first batsman to go through a potential Test selection inspired slump!

However, as has been pointed out regularly on here and elsewhere, form is temporary and class is permanent. Robson has some class about him. I'd rather a batsman who shows hunger whatever the opposition and cashes in, than one who goes out for a stroll and doesn't do it even when things are in his favour.

Posted by CodandChips on (February 20, 2014, 19:55 GMT)

@sirviv re woakes/stokes

"As for Woakes, he certainly should be in for a shout of a test place. 1 He had better county stats than Stokes last year 2 Stokes may need a rest. Look at Joe Root for example 3 Stokes was picked to suit Aussie conditions so Woakes should surely get a go in England 4 Woakes plays half his cricket at Edgbaston, a seamers graveyard 5 Woakes is far more likely to be a consistent batsman who bowls with better control than Stokes who takes wickets expensively and isn't consistent at all batting wise 6 Stokes performances were overstated in Australia by how poorly the rest played.

Posted by CodandChips on (February 20, 2014, 19:50 GMT)

@sirviv good pints raised. I actually fear that this series says much more about Sri Lankan cricket than english

Posted by Oldsedcopian on (February 20, 2014, 19:08 GMT)

Before getting carried away about this 4 centuries in 5 matches, best remember that 2 of them were not first class and played against 2nd XI sides. Including this latest innings, his most recent first class figures according to cricinfo's own site are 16 innings for 493 runs. I saw him play last summer and thought him a promising talent in one innings, and then rather disappointing when he batted again. I think he has a way to go yet.

Posted by InsideHedge on (February 20, 2014, 19:03 GMT)

Yet another innings where Varun Chopra has failed. It's probably dangerous to comment in the middle of a series but there's enough evidence now that Chopra will never make the grade at the highest level. Repeated failures cannot be ignored, there's no point selecting him for future Lions games once this tour is completed.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (February 20, 2014, 18:57 GMT)

@CodandChips, I'm still not really sure why you think Stokes should be rested for the tests against SRL!

So far this has been a promising series for some of the test hopefuls Taylor,Moen & Robson have certainly done themselves no harm and although i'm not his biggest fan Woakes had a good return from the first game. I have to wonder though how strong SRL 2nd string is. With Dilshan gone & the likes of Jayawardene, Sangers & Samerweera all in their mid to late 30s you have to fear just a little bit for SRL a future in test cricket.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 20, 2014, 18:53 GMT)

@Bagofsmoke I have. What's more in a freak game where it looked at one point that the match could end on the first day yet, it was a calm Sam Robson innings on the third morning that took Middlesex to what should have been a very challenging target with great comfort. In a match where both top orders had fallen like skittles in the first three innings, he made batting look easy. The Middlesex people were raving about him (this was 2011) and already talking about him as a real Test prospect. He had also decided some time back - well before qualifying - that he wanted to play for England and had that clear long before he became a serious prospect for honours.

I had not realized that he had managed four centuries in five matches. That is an impressive trot.

@shillingsworth I am sure that the headlines tomorrow will about James Taylor. A few more innings like this and he will be back in the Test side.

Posted by jackiethepen on (February 20, 2014, 18:00 GMT)

You will find that Taylor doesn't get much of a mention from Alex Winter. The same thing happened when Taylor was batting with Ali in the first 'Test'. Taylor became top scorer.

Posted by skilebow on (February 20, 2014, 14:26 GMT)

@BobCo - Nah give him a go now. We don't have to most difficult test run to the next Ashes with only India really but we are playing them at home so I would blood him now. He is 23ish and Compton was 29/30 when he made his England debut. How long do you want them to wait?!

Posted by Bagsofsmoke on (February 20, 2014, 14:01 GMT)

I'll caveat this by saying I've never seen Robson bat. But on the evidence of his recent scores, he is obviously a talented lad. However, do we really need another steady accumulator in the Cook mould to bat alongside the skipper? Surely the lesson of this winter is that England need to get back to batting with a bit of tempo in order to unsettle the opposition bowlers, not crawl along at 2 an over and thereby allow them to set aggressive fields and build pressure.

Posted by BobCo on (February 20, 2014, 13:57 GMT)

Robson's personal profile page is listed under Sri Lankan players too... another strange thing. Still, time to beat up the chances of another promising player well before his readiness. Hopefully the England selectors let him be for another year in county cricket. Compton can surely be used as an example of selection a tad too soon?

Posted by CodandChips on (February 20, 2014, 13:37 GMT)

A good tour from Robson and I'd consider resting Root and opening with him and Cook. Taylor was already a dead cert for me..

The side is looking more and more like: 1.Cook 2.Root/Robson 3.Bell 4.Taylor 5.Ali 6.Woakes 7.Davies 8. Broad 9.Jordan 10.Amderson 11.Kerrigan

Will happen, course not.

Probably 1.Cook 2.Robson 3.Root 4.Bell 5.Morgan 6.Stokes 7.Prior/Bairstow 8.Broad 9.Onions?? 10.Anderson 11.Any spinner

Posted by shillingsworth on (February 20, 2014, 12:54 GMT)

Strange article - barely a mention of Taylor's innings, yet two paragraphs are devoted to an irrelevant and somewhat contrived comparison of Robson and Allen.

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