Sri Lankans 254 and 42 for 2 trail Essex 412 for 4 dec by 116 runs
'If I was ever ready, it'd be now' - Westley
Tom Westley talks about his current form for Essec and his England ambitions
When touring sides are searching for the positives after long hard days in the field, they tend to point to miles in the legs for their bowlers or useful insights into a likely Test opponent. On both counts at Chelmsford, however, Sri Lanka finished the second day of their tour match against Essex with precious little to cheer.
If Tom Westley's fourth first-class century in eight innings of a stellar season does prove to have been enough to earn him a place in Thursday's squad for the first Test at Headingley, then the clarity of his strokeplay will have offered precious little sign of any weaknesses - save perhaps a tendency to clip leg-stump half-volleys in the air, as he did off Nuwan Pradeep to bring to an end a serene 108 from 158 balls.
As for miles in the legs, well, it appeared to be 17.3 overs and out for Dhammika Prasad, one of the architects of their famous series win over England on the 2014 tour. His 5 for 50 in that second innings at Headingley paved the way for Shaminda Eranga to seal the contest in thrilling fashion in the final over of the match. But, with the return visit to Leeds looming in little over a week's time, he limped off the field with a shoulder problem, leaving his 18th over to be completed by Dimuth Karunaratne.
At the close, Kaushal Silva, Sri Lanka's opener, played the injury down as a "shoulder niggle", but the management later confirmed he would be sent for a precautionary scan. "He's a big bowler for us," Silva said. "He has been the spearhead for the last two years and in the last series against England he was the one who changed the game, so he's an important character in our bowling line-up."
As Sri Lanka struggled, Westley wasn't alone in cashing in on a flaccid attack. In 2013, Jaik Mickleburgh impressed with 90 and 58 in a warm-up fixture against England ahead of that summer's Ashes - only for his efforts to be scrubbed from the record-books, along with the match's first-class status, due to a glut of injuries to England's bowlers. But he made amends this time out with a chanceless 109 from 188 balls, his third hundred in as many first-class innings this season, following his twin scores of 125 and 102 against Cambridge MCCU last month.
While Mickleburgh and Westley were adding 132 for the third wicket, Sri Lanka's seamers might have believed, amid the improbable heat and their own lack of incision, that they had been transported back to the merciless tarmac of the Sinhalese Sports Club. The only genuine chance offered by either man came when Westley, on 39, chipped a loose drive in the air to mid-on, where a simple opportunity went begging. Notwithstanding a similarly loose departure 31 overs later, it was an aberration that a toiling attack could scarcely afford.
In the end, it took a mildly farcical enforced declaration to end Essex's cavorting in the Monday sun - apparently the ECB had decreed that no innings in this contest could exceed 100 overs, but nobody informed the Chelmsford spectators until the 97th over. You suspect that nobody informed Ravi Bopara either - he is probably the least likely man in the Essex dressing-room to possess such fingertip knowledge of the playing conditions, and he was left high and dry on 87 not out when a century had clearly be there for the taking.
Essex's teenaged contingent also enjoyed their day. Dan Lawrence pounded his way to 57 not out from 53 balls, with six fours and two sixes, both of which came in the space of his final five balls as he galloped past his milestone. And then, following swiftly on from his headline-seizing exploits on the first day, Aaron Beard's whippy pace and late movement once again proved too tricksy for Silva, who was pinned lbw for 7 in his second over.
With a deficit of 158 and 13 overs remaining to be bowled, Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis appeared to have repaired the damage with a stand of 33, only for Mendis to prod the very last ball of the day, from Matt Dixon, to Westley at second slip.
It was a slippery ball from a slippery bowler, a burly 23-year-old Australian playing in his ninth first-class game, but one of the few to find the right area in an erratic start to his second innings. Nevertheless, Dixon's delivery was more dangerous than most of the balls sent down by Essex's opponents. Sri Lanka, with the first Test looming in ten days' time, have worries on and off the field.