Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 3rd unofficial Test, Colombo February 26, 2014

Woakes and Borthwick lift England Lions


England Lions 302 for 5 (Woakes 84*, Borthwick 59*) v Sri Lanka A

Chopra, Woakes dominate Sri Lanka A

A polished 83 from Varun Chopra laid the base for a busy, unbeaten 130-run stand between Chris Woakes and Scott Borthwick in the evening, as England Lions moved to a comfortable 302 for 5 at stumps on the opening of the final unofficial Test. Sri Lanka A did themselves few favours as they chased a series-levelling win, shelling two chances and fluffing a straightforward run out, but the Premadasa surface also eased the visitors' progress, flattening out considerably in the afternoon sun.

Organisation was Chopra's hallmark, as he felt his way scrupulously through a sedate morning session. At lunch, England were 60 for 2, half those runs having come from Chopra's bat. There was little in the surface to warrant a run rate of 2.14, but Vishwa Fernando and Dushmantha Chameera found bounce when they bent their backs, and Chopra was content to sway away. He was just as comfortable leaving when the seam bowlers attacked outside the off stump.

Eventually, after lunch, the scoring strokes appeared. Chameera was pasted through the covers, and behind point, and Suraj Randiv whipped square on the leg side. Chopra favoured the back foot, particularly against the spinners, and having begun gingerly against them, progressed with increasing skill and conviction.

He remained vigilant as team-mates gave in to dips in concentration at the other end. James Taylor chopped Lahiru Gamage on to his stumps to collect a rare failure on the tour, and Jonny Bairstow chased a head-high bouncer from Chameera, edging behind. Chopra went to tea 17 short of a 15th first-class ton, but on resumption he was also guilty of letting his focus slip. He played a complacent swipe across the line to a quicker, flatter Jeevan Mendis delivery that skidded through to strike him on the front pad.

Chopra had made three starts in the series so far - one of them a fifty - but this innings had been his most significant of the tour. "I've been fairly pleased with the way I've been batting on tour, without having that team-defining or day-defining total," Chopra said. "The mornings here generally do a little bit and the seamers bowled well with the new ball, but we managed to fight through and the runs became easier as the day went on. The carry was a bit better here than in Dambulla, but once you get in as a batsman you prefer a bit of pace and bounce on the ball."

The bowlers' effort waned in the evening, and Woakes and Borthwick progressed at more than four an over. Neither batsman was particularly secure, offering edges that fell short, or just evaded the slips, but they were punishing on errors of length, slamming short balls to the square leg fence, and driving confidently when the bowlers overcorrected. Having come together at 172 for 5, the pair ensured Chopra's heavy work earlier did not go wasted. Woakes finished the day on 84 and Borthwick had 55.

"I think we shaded that day. We're pretty happy with the score," Chopra said. "If we look to make it fast the first hour and bat half a day tomorrow, we'll be in a good position, having won the series."

If Sri Lanka A are pursuing a level series, they had made a strange choice before the match had even begun. Offspinner Tharindu Kaushal, the top wicket-taker in the series, was omitted from the side, ostensibly to allow Randiv a run, perhaps with a view to sending Randiv on the tour to England in June.

Randiv has had rich returns from his first-class outings so far in the season, having claimed 29 wickets in eight innings. He could not extract substantial turn from the Premadasa surface, but he bowled brave lengths nonetheless, and avoided the sort of wayward overs that had cost him his place in the Test side.

Sri Lanka's most costly missed chance of the day was perhaps also the most difficult. Fernando drew Woakes' outside edge on 31, but a diving Niroshan Dickwella could not close his gloves on the chance. Having toured with the national team in the UAE and Bangladesh, this series has been a sobering return to earth for Fernando. He has only claimed one wicket in the four-dayers so far, perhaps learning like several Sri Lanka tearaways before him that pace alone may not prove penetrative against high-quality batsmen.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paulo on February 27, 2014, 8:13 GMT

    @Paul Rone-Clarke Joe Root/Moeen Ali/Sam Robson, Chris Jordan, James Taylor/Moeen Ali, Steve Davies, Simon Kerrigan. Surprised that that is "all they need"

    England will probably go with Robson/Root, Tim Bresnan, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior/Jonny Bairstow, And the spinner is anyone's guess

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    England need a good opening partner for Cooke. A third seamer who is capable of taking wickets, a spinner, a wicketkeeper and a number four batsmen. That's five places out of eleven up for grabs.

  • Nick on February 27, 2014, 3:11 GMT

    Surprising that we were just 7 expat spectators at yesterday's first day, but pleasing to see 100 plus schoolboys arrive with lunch boxes to watch a couple of hours play. Good knocks from Woakes and Chopra, who looks like he could fit into the England batting lineup. Nice to watch classic legspin from Jeevan Mendis and good loop and control from Randiv, with Gamage the pick of the SLA seamers. Hope for more local support today and the prospect of seeing SL openers Upal Tharanga and Dimuth Karuneratna in action, after their splendid matchsaving rearguard in Dambulla. Fine 4-day cricket!

  • Jonny on February 26, 2014, 23:50 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer: so the standard is relevant when you want to discount Bairstow's hundreds in Australia and Sri Lanka but not when you want to include his poor returns against Mitchell Johnson et al? I think you'll find that Chopra played against the same "slap and giggle" (whatever that's supposed to mean) attacks that Bairstow scored his centuries against yet could only manage a golden duck and 17.

    Baisrtow is 2 years younger than Chopra, has an average 8 runs better than him in non-international FC cricket (i.e. the only comparable level as it is the only level that Chopra has played at), and you claim he's blown his chance of playing Test cricket again. That's just ridiculous.

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2014, 23:37 GMT

    @randommagician I don't agree they are playing for one slot, If Tim Bresnan cannot show early season form there is no outstanding candidate for the third seamer slot. Woakes has such a good county bowling record in red ball cricket better than a lot of his competitors, I think with time be could add that bite to his bowling it seems to lack at international level

    1) Cook 2) Root 3) Bell 4) Taylor 5) Ballance 6) Woakes 7) Prior 8) Stokes 9) Board 10) Anderson 11) A Spinner

    I also read that Trott intends to play a full season with England ambitions he would come in for Ballance or Taylor

  • Mark on February 26, 2014, 20:13 GMT

    @RandomMagician I did some fact checking. In the unofficial Tests: 0, 19, 27, 20. For England in Australia: 10, 21, 18, 0. That does not stack up to me like a huge return. Not a single score of 30 in 8 attempts in the serious matches that he has played. Yes, he got a century in a "slap and giggle" warm-up against a very weak side, but I am thinking more of scoring runs against bowlers who can actually defend themselves.

    In the same unofficial Test matches, Varun Chopra has: 58, 24, 28 & 83. Three of his four innings have been higher than Jonny Bairstow's best in eight attempts.

    I know which set of scores I would prefer to see if I were a selector.

  • Jonny on February 26, 2014, 19:36 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer: so Varun Chopra, who has made 261 runs @ 33 this tour, is "making a good case", whereas Jonny Bairstow, who has made 305 runs @ 38, "has blown any chance of adding to his Test caps"... Right, that figures! What nonsense.

    Woakes is certainly having a good tour but I don't think runs against poor Sri Lankan oppostion are worth quite as much as against the Aussies in Perth so I don't see him overtaking Stokes. They're playing for one slot IMO, neither should bat lower than 7.

  • Mark on February 26, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    @CodandChips Purveying sound common sense as you do, you are wasted on here!

    Totally in agreement about Borthwick. He gets wickets with bad balls and that is a very useful talent to have. Better a lucky batsman and a lucky bowler than unlucky ones.

  • Paulo on February 26, 2014, 17:54 GMT

    Can't believe Vince hasn't played once yet Chopra and Lees played all 3. Suppose Chopra scored today, but I would have liked Vince to get an opportunity. I guess there should be enough middle order options already open.

    I still wouldn't mind Woakes taking Stokes' place for the test series vs Sri Lanka.

    Borthwick looks like he could replace a batsman/allrounder to provide an extra spin option if needed. He needs work on his bowling, but it takes wickets and provides something different, and his batting is certainly up there.

  • Mark on February 26, 2014, 16:27 GMT

    It is good to see Chris Woakes making such a solid case for himself to bat at 6 and act as fifth bowler.

    With Moeen Ali,. Varun Chopra, Sam Robson and James Taylor all making good cases, the selectors are hardly short of options. In contrast, poor Jonny Bairstow is suffering a winter from hell. Surely he has blown any chance of adding to his Test caps?

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