Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 2nd unofficial Test, Dambulla, 4th day February 22, 2014

Karunaratne, Tharanga tons secure draw

Sri Lanka A 289 (Silva 73, Rajapaksa 68, Onions 4-24) and 357 for 3 (Karunaratne 156, Tharanga 116) drew with England Lions 605 for 7 dec (Taylor 242*, Robson 142)

The wicket won the day in Dambulla

There was no Dambulla dustbowl on the final day and the only deterioration was on the forehead of England Lions captain Chris Woakes, left to shrug his shoulders as his side toiled away on a dead wicket. But they have secured at least a draw from this series, which heads to its final leg in Colombo.

Throughout the match, the wicket here - the flattest of the tour - has dominated, save for the first afternoon where Sri Lanka A played carelessly and the Lions found joy with the second new ball. Sam Robson and James Taylor filled their boots and on day four, Dimuth Karunaratne and Upul Tharanga followed suit, both with satisfying centuries and an opening stand of 229.

Karunaratne, a 25-year-old from Colombo, could potentially face several of this Lions squad in Sri Lanka's Test series against England in June. Like Taylor yesterday, he played an innings of a class act. He has been steady in the start of his Test career, the highlight his 85 in Sydney, but since then has made only two half-centuries in 11 innings.

Dropped into Sri Lanka's A team, he shored up a shaky top order, albeit in the most batting-friendly conditions of the tour. Runs here are only a small indicator of potential for success in an English early summer but the way he handled the short ball, particularly when Liam Plunkett came around the wicket for a burst, was impressive.

He dropped his hands just in time to get under another ball banged in by Graham Onions. The next delivery, of similar length but offering a touch of width, was cleverly steered away wide of gully. It was one a number of strokes where, given time to play by the slow nature of the wicket, he manoeuvred the seam bowling with ease.

Against the spinners he was in full control. He stepped out of his crease to lift Ollie Rayner down the ground for six and played a delightful flick through midwicket as Simon Kerrigan had a go around the wicket just before lunch - the experiment lasted all of two balls. After the break, which he took on 95, he turned Scott Borthwick through square leg to bring up a 172-ball century. He walked off very frustrated having bowled after tea with a double hundred in full view.

At the other end, Tharanga, captain and the most experienced player in Sri Lanka A's squad, was playing an important innings for himself. Over 6000 runs in international cricket suggests he should stand out at this level but had made two ducks and 30 before this innings. As recently as last June he made 174 not out against India in an ODI but after a poor home series against South Africa was left out of Sri Lanka's squad for tours of the UAE and Bangladesh.

In a circumspect start to the day, a dropped single into the leg side brought Tharanga fifty in 111 balls. He came out of his shell a touch in the half hour before lunch, creating himself space to carve Rayner through extra-cover but nearly presented a catch to mid-on two balls later. A burst of introspection saw him return to his earlier method, save for one more aggressive advance, this against Kerrigan. He went on to make his first century since the start of December.

In the first two sessions the Lions only found a breakthrough via a lazy cut stroke from Tharanga which he dragged into his stumps. Otherwise it was hard graft and, until the wicket, became difficult to contain two players so well set.

They missed Moeen Ali's offspinners. His more classic floated deliveries might have caused more problems than Rayner, a little tall to get much air, and Kerrigan, who drives the ball into the wicket. Borthwick created the most trouble with several lbw shouts and a thin edge that flew past Jonny Bairstow as Tharanga tried to cut.

Bairstow has not enjoyed much luck on this tour as he struggles to make a case for his Test selection over Matt Prior. Things have not quite come together for Varun Chopra either. In six of his 10 innings this winter he has made it to 20 but only one half-century, continuing slippery form that brought four single-figure scores in his final six innings of the county season.

Chopra's opportunity at Test level is perhaps not as immediate as others on this tour with several candidates ahead of him in the queue for a place in England's batting order. Alex Lees, at 20-year-old and not even an immediate selection for Yorkshire last summer, is not a runner for Test selection at the moment so having played just one innings of note on this tour should not be too much of a concern.

But several others - notably Taylor, Robson, Woakes, Plunkett and Onions - have used this window well to mark themselves out as potential Test picks and will aim to make a further case in the final match of the tour.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2014, 5:58 GMT

    @BlackHawk how Sri Lankan produces cricketers over the past few decades is beyond me. Only few top clubs and even fewer people get paid to play cricket. First class cricketers often go and play in league in England and Australia to make a living and don't play in SL. We probably select the national team from a pool of about 200 players. With the new reforms SLC gets even less money and soon there won't be anyone pursuing cricket as a career. If you don't play for your country a cricket in SL can expect around 600$ a month which doesn't go far at all. The fact that SL have competed and won against teams that have billions upon billions to spend on cricket is an achievement by it self. Just imagine IPL or (EPL football) with no salary cap. Do you think smaller clubs will survive at all? That's basically what will happen to smaller countries like SL because of the greed of countries that already have a monopoly.

  • Rosh on February 23, 2014, 12:55 GMT

    win or lose,we should not prepare flat tracks.Typical test wickets (which helps seamers in early stages and latter part of the game starts to turn) should be prepared.Player averages in domestic arena don't reflect player's ability or potential these days.Unlike early days, a batsmen averaging around 45 in domestic level are not quality players except one or two.Several 'flat track masters' are significant around the circuit and the sad part is the authority seems to be fooled by a few of them.on the other hand this very authority prefer 'half batsman half bowler' players for longer format of the game.Though they score half centuries or take 5wkt hauls,by no means they are Test cricket material.Beginners luck doesn't last long,but class remains the same.Wake up authority!

  • Paulo on February 23, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    Perhaps this day indicates how well the Lions have bowled in the rest of the series.

    Bairstow has struggled to "make his case for a test place" because he is not a good enough keeper or batsman.

    Next match I'd bring in Vince for Lees or Chopra, a seamer for Rayner, and possibly Foakes for Bairstow, although I haven't seen much of Foakes. Anybody know what he's like?

    Perhaps next match: 1.Robson 2.Chopra 3.Taylor 4. Vince 5.Borthwick 6.Woakes 7.Foakes 8.Plunkett 9.Mills 10.Onions 11.Kerrigan

  • Pundit on February 22, 2014, 23:36 GMT

    Well said Murali......I concur. Don't worry about talent in Sri Lanka Pakistan etc....the policies of ICC are looking to monopolise it so they dominate. When England boys get mention that the pitch was flat,mas son as La Kansas get the runs the pitch is flat! Bias reporting and thinking. Also U 19 coverage was all about England and India...very little about other score commentary..this is what is going to happen, publicity hype, etc this is only the beginning. The English and the Aussies go on about the every other year...believe their cricket is the best. Reality is the standard is generally poor.

  • Oshada on February 22, 2014, 17:57 GMT

    @Murali_the_greatest, I'm not familiar with the details of the new reforms. Why would the prevent young players coming through in Sri Lanka?

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    chathuranga---woow the beast

  • Nilantha on February 22, 2014, 13:03 GMT

    this is a decent result for us, given the England team we are playing against. Dont forget that 5 or 6 of the England team have represented the full team at some stage whereas only two our our A team are the same. The team we have put out is too weak to compete with this lions team tbh.

  • Dileep on February 22, 2014, 11:58 GMT

    Well some England fans were posting that the future of Sri Lankan cricket looked dire on the basis of the first 3 days play but ultimately it was a flat pitch. The Sri Lankan youngsters were equally capable of churning out big scores on this pitch. Looks like Tharindu Kaushal was the only spinner in the match able to vaguely threaten but he too was expensive. I also watched Sri Lankan U19 team beat England U19 in a recent televised match and the Lankan U19s top order were far more impressive in their classical stroke making. They also had a couple of quality left arm quicks able to bowl at over 80mph and swing it back into the right handers; so fair to say there is enough young talent in Sri Lanka. Sadly, the latest ICC policies may prevent the talent in SL, WI, PAK and NZ from being fully realised in the future. Well done Alex Winter, his coverage of this A team series has been detailed, insightful and fair to both teams.

  • No featured comments at the moment.