Woakes delight at team and personal gains
England Lions captain Chris Woakes has credited his team's preparation and their unrelenting focus on victory, for the 1-0 series win over Sri Lanka A. Lions drew the final match in Colombo, but had achieved a dominant position in all three matches in the tour, as well as the two practice games that preceded them.
The quest for personal success can often overshadow collective goals in A team tours, as players seek to climb to the top team, but Woakes said Lions had instilled a healthy group mentality in Sri Lanka.
"Our preparation was very good. The two warm up games we took very seriously and set out to win them - not only to give people match time," Woakes said. "That got us used to the conditions and the heat early on. I think not only everyone preparing well, but also executing their plan. As a bowling attack we executed our plans and as batsmen we played spin particularly well - as well as I've seen guys from England play in the subcontinent. I think they're the main areas that have done us well over the last few weeks."
Woakes said the prospect of earning places in the England side, who have had a horror winter, may have provided extra motivation for his players.
"I think whenever you come on a Lions tour you're always looking to put in performances as an individual. We've tried to win this team together as a team - not just as individuals. That's difficult to do when guys are trying to go for that next level. There are possibly places up for grabs come June in the England Test side, and the guys haven't done any harm to their chances. But the main goal was to win the series, and I'm pleased that we managed that."
Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga was also satisfied with how his team had fared in the series, given the squad's relative youth and inexperience. The tour was a personal triumph for Tharanga, as he seeks to regain his place in the national side. His 295 runs at 59 featured two hundreds, and was the highest aggregate for the hosts.
"I'm really happy about my hundred, because it has come at a time when I'm not in the national team. I think I can be satisfied with how I've played in this series. I worked with Romesh Kaluwitharana in the A team for a few months, and worked on a few technical things. Since then I've been batting better, I feel. I have some club matches coming up, so hopefully I can keep that going."
Test opener Dimuth Karunaratne had also hit a hundred in the series, as had Madawa Warnapura. Tharanga said Warnapura's runs had been particularly well earned, given the quality of the opposition.
"It was great to see Madawa also getting a hundred. I think given the number of runs he's got in this series, it will be a major boost to his career. They had some very good bowlers - particularly the fast bowlers. It's a big step up for our guys, because in our club matches, the opposition might have one or two good bowlers, and when you are rid of them, you can score off the others. This England A team didn't have weak links. They rarely bowled loose balls. It was a good challenge for us."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here