Sri Lanka U-19s 48 for 1 trail England U-19s 208 (Holden 111*, Kumara 7-82) by 160 runs
Max Holden carried his bat for an unbeaten century on an otherwise poor day for England's Under-19s against Sri Lanka in Northampton. Holden, a left-handed opener from Cambridge who signed a three-year contract with Middlesex last winter, marked his second game as captain with a fine innings on a lively Wantage Road pitch.
He ended with 111 from 229 balls with 13 fours and became the first opener to carry his bat for the Under-19s since Surrey's Dominic Sibley against South Africa in Paarl in January 2013.
But until Surrey spinner Amar Virdi allowed him to reach his century in a last-wicket stand of 48, he did not receive much support. After Holden and Worcestershire's Olly Westbury had played comfortably to reach 90 without loss at lunch, England lost six wickets for 17 in the hour after lunch. The middle order from three to seven managed one run between them, and bustling Sri Lankan seamer Lahiru Kumara took five for six in one burst, ending with 7 for 82.
Reaching 208 represented a slight recovery, with Virdi doing especially well as Holden was 20 short of his century when he came in. Warwickshire seamer George Panayi then took an early wicket when Sri Lanka began their second innings, but captain Charith Asalanka steered the tourists to 48 for 1 by the close.
England made a single enforced change to the team who enjoyed the better of the previous four-day match between the teams in Cambridge last week, with Hampshire allrounder Josh McCoy making his debut in place of the injured Durham seamer Josh Coughlin.
Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to field on a fresh morning, but Holden and Westbury rarely looked troubled. It was a totally different story after lunch.
Westbury, who had scored 196 at Fenner's, fell for a handy 45 in the first over of the session, lbw to a full delivery from Kumara. Gloucestershire's George Hankins followed for a duck in Kumara's next over, hooking his sixth ball to long leg, and Somerset's George Bartlett went in identical fashion four overs later.
When Kumara won another lbw decision against Worcestershire's Josh Dell, England had lost four for eight in almost nine overs since lunch.
And two more wickets tumbled for the addition of only nine more runs, as Surrey wicketkeeper Ollie Pope became Kumara's fifth consecutive victim, before McCoy was deceived by the first ball from legspinner Wanidu Hasaranga.
Holden continued to play confidently and sensibly throughout the procession, and finally found some support from Yorkshire's Ed Barnes who made 16 in a seventh-wicket stand of 17 before he was bowled by Kumara.
Aaron Beard and Panayi also hung around longer than their middle-order colleagues, but it was Virdi who allowed Holden to reach the century he deserved.
"That was a high-quality innings in difficult circumstances," said Tim Boon, the Under-19s long-serving batting coach, who was also involved when Sibley carried his bat.
"Obviously I'm delighted to get the runs myself, but it's been an up-and-down day," said Holden. "The way we played in the first session we set ourselves up to make a big score. Then we had that nightmare session really, it was a real shame to watch from the other end - their guy bowled well, he got it reversing, but we should have played him better.
"Then we fought back well, especially Virds - he knuckled down well, because he's known for playing a few shots in the nets, and showed a bit of discipline and fight to get us up to that 200.
"I've not carried my bat since playing for Cambridgeshire back in the day. It's a nice achievement I guess, and I really enjoyed batting out there. We just need to knuckle down now.
"We can still come back tomorrow, get a few early wickets, and I think we'll be right back in the game."