Joe Root, Ollie Pope reach warm-up fifties but some batsmen have work to do

James Anderson, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach impress with the ball

George Dobell
George Dobell
Team Buttler 120 for 6 (Pope 58*) trail Team Root 184 for 2 (Root 74*) by 64 runs
A conclusion on whether England enjoyed a good or bad first day of action on their trip to Sri Lanka depends, perhaps, on whether you are a glass half full or a glass half empty person.
Certainly several of England's bowlers enjoyed an encouraging day. At one stage his opening spell, James Anderson was on a hat-trick, while Ollie Robinson and Jack Leach also impressed.
But as Team Buttler slipped to 48 for 6, albeit on a surprisingly green surface, it became clear England had work to do on their batting before the first Test starts next week. To be fair to those batsmen, Jonny Bairstow, who made five, received a terrific ball from Anderson that demanded a stroke and left him, Jos Buttler was dismissed first ball by an even better one which darted back to bowl him through the gate and Dom Sibley was out for one, drawn into playing at one which bounced to take his edge from Robinson.
Later Ben Foakes, who had looked assured in making 21, was beaten by a beauty from Leach which lured him forward, pitched on middle and turned to hit the top of off. It was fine quality bowling, by any standard.
But with less than a week to go until the first Test, it underlined the far from perfect preparation with which both sides must contend in these unusual circumstances.
Underlining those unusual circumstances was the sight of England rotating members of their backroom staff to umpire throughout the day. Even Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men's cricket, took a turn. It was also decided that the teams - Team Root v Team Buttler - would bat for 50 overs each on the first day of this two-day match, with the prospect of rain on day two.
The challenge now is for the players to shake off the appearances of a low-key, inter-squad game and ensure they are ready for the intensity of Test cricket next week. Without crowds, or genuine opposition, it's not easy. And, on this evidence, the batsmen have some work to do and only one more day of warm-up match cricket to come.
The final day of this game is likely to be played in 'middle practice' conditions. That means that none of the seamers are expected to bowl and the spinners will be given a prolonged workout. Equally, the batsmen will be given plenty of opportunity to face spin. Sunday is currently scheduled to be a rest day - thought that may change if Saturday is ruined by rain - while Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will see training in Galle. The Test starts on Thursday.
There was, at least, unmitigated good news off the pitch. The latest round of Covid-19 tests returned no new positive results, meaning this match was able to progress and boosting hopes that the virus has been contained. Moeen Ali, the one man to test positive in the tour party to date, remains in isolation and is said to be improving having experienced mild symptoms. If all goes well, he will rejoin the rest of the squad on the 13th. Chris Woakes, who travelled in the same car as Moeen from Birmingham to Heathrow and is therefore considered a close contact is in quarantine, too. Woakes, at least, can expect to be released from captivity over the weekend. He will train at the ground on Saturday and is expected to travel to Galle, probably in a separate car, tomorrow night. The squad is tested again on January 12.
The day also provided a first sight of England's new batting consultant. Jacques Kallis arrived in Sri Lanka a few days ago but, having come on a commercial flight, was obliged to spend some time in quarantine. He has now been released and joined up with the rest of the tour party on Friday.
It wasn't all bad news for England's batsmen on the pitch, either. At the start of the day, Joe Root made a typically busy 74 not out (from 117 balls) and put on 95 for the third-wicket with a fluent Dan Lawrence (46 not out from 66 balls).
Zak Crawley (46 from 79) also impressed for a while. He picked up five boundaries - the pick of them perhaps an authoritative pull off Saqib Mahmood - but fell just short of a half-century when he attempted to run one from leg-spinner Mason Crane behind point but could only feather an edge through to Buttler.
Earlier James Bracey (16 from 38), who opened with Crawley, fell as he attempted to hit Dom Bess over the top but could only scoop a catch to mid-on. After 50 overs, when Team Root decided to allow Team Buttler a bat, the score was 184-2.
Later there was an encouraging return from Ollie Pope, too. Pope isn't an official member of the squad on this tour but, with an eye towards assuring his preparedness for the India series, has been brought along to continue his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery. So far, he has appeared only as a batsman and has not been asked to field.
He soon provided a reminder of his class. By the close he was unbeaten on 58 (from 91) and, in partnership with Sibley (who had been allowed a second innings and was unbeaten on 18), had added 72 and helped Team Buttler rebuild to 120-6 from 38 overs. Anderson (8-3-21-2), Robinson (4-1-15-2) and Leach (8-0-27-2) shared the wickets, with Mark Wood (8-2-25-0) also enjoying a decent spell.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo