Alex Winter, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo where the title is “Woakes puts Lions in firm control”
There are a number of this England Lions squad that have taken a hefty knock from international cricket. Injury, unfortunate selection and underperformance have befallen them. They have all been forced back into cricketing purgatory having been briefly shown through the pearly gates. Chris Woakes has had a double dose. His run of 13 one-day internationals was ended last June and his Test debut in August deterred the selectors from including him in the Ashes party – a decision that one could now argue was a blessing in disguise.
He was on the wrong end of Martin Guptill last summer but maintained his form in county cricket, finishing the season as the leading English allrounder, and shrugged off an unrewarding Test debut – where four of his first five overs went for 30 – to complete the year strongly with Warwickshire, including a first-class best 152 not out. He then put in two solid performances for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash.
Being made captain of England Lions for this Sri Lanka tour would have been a further stir in raising his credentials as an international cricketer. On the second day in Pallekele he produced an opening spell worthy of such a player and finished with 4 for 45 to put his side in full control.
It was feared that Sri Lanka A’s young order would be over exposed against a high-quality experienced attack, benefitting from swing with the new ball. The third ball of the innings compounded such thoughts. The fourth doubled the scepticism that this match will last four days. Two wickets in the opening over and by lunch the hosts were 55 for 6 and Sri Lankan appetites for a season in England were disappearing.
Footwork, a lack thereof, was chiefly to blame for five of the top six contributing only 21, two of them ducks. Just enough movement flummoxed four into offering catches behind the wicket, the first of which was stunningly held by Liam Plunkett with one hand down to his right hand side. Onions also won an lbw decision against left-handed Niroshan Dickwella.
The new ball – taken by Woakes and Graham Onions – was when classically English bowling was a threat. When the swinging ball had run its course, Chaturunga de Silva and Dhammika Prasad thrived. But their stand of 64 was for the eighth wicket merely propped up the innings from a miserable 61 for 7. Sri Lanka paid badly for their failure to get into the meat of the innings with any kind of stability. They only lasted 48 overs.
Veteran captain Upal Tharanga survived the initial carnage but 30 was a modest return from the most experienced player in the order. He fell in the last over before tea as Moeen Ali found some turn to have him caught at short leg. Moeen also ended de Silva’s attractive innings, finding an edge taken by Varun Chopra at first slip. It was evidence of what an attacking weapon Moeen can be. Scott Borthwick did not bowl in the innings.
De Silva held the Lions to a draw in the second warm-up in Colombo and again demonstrated his sound technique – albeit coming in at No. 6 against a ball not as fresh – and flourishing strokemaking. His piercing cover drive off Tymal Mills was the shot of the day. In general it was more intelligent batting than his colleagues up the order and prevented his side from being totally blown away.
De Silva was helped by some hefty striking from Prasad. He belted several drives through the covers, lifted Moeen over extra-cover for four and then over long-off for six, and managed his last partner carefully enough to allow the addition of 28 more runs. The stand nearly saved the follow-on that the Lions predictably chose not to enforce.
But the tourists stumbled in adding to their first-innings lead of 159 as Sri Lanka A’s very capable spinners, Tharindu Kaushal and de Silva, thrived in more helpful conditions. The Lions’ top three all fell lbw, Chopra sweeping, and James Taylor nibbled to slip. Three wickets went to de Silva who, in the face of testing day for his side, walked off with a smile.