Feb 262014
Chopra and Woakes lift Lions

Chris Woakes and Varun Chopra combine to boost England Lions on the opening day to the third 'Test' when both made eighties

Eighties from Warwickshire pair Varun Chopra and captain Chris Woakes justified England Lions’ decision to bat first in the third and final ‘Test’ with Sri Lanka A.

Chopra’s patient 83 helped the tourists’ recover from 78 for three and Woakes’ unbeaten 84 lifted them to 302 for five at stumps.

Woakes, batting at number six, shared an unbroken stand of 130 with Scott Borthwick, who contributed 59.

Lahiru Gamage was the outstanding bowler on day one of four at Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium, ousting second ‘Test’ centurions Sam Robson and James Taylor en route to figures of 2-37 from 14 overs.

Woakes, whose side lead 1-0 after last week’s draw at Dambulla, called correctly at the toss and announced one change to the Lions line-up with paceman Tymal Mills replacing spinner Ollie Rayner.

Sri Lanka A made three alterations but it was Gamage, one of the retained players, who caused most threat and he snared Robson for nought in the fourth over.

Robson’s opening partner Alex Lees hung around for a while, but he went lbw for 20 to Suraj Randiv.

When Taylor, who struck a double-hundred at Dambulla, was bowled by Gamage for 14 the Lions were in a spot of bother.

However, Jonny Bairstow supported number three Chopra, who normally opens for his county, with a smooth 20 before falling to Dushmantha Chameera.

Chopra and Woakes were one short of a fifty partnership when Jeevan Mendis trapped the former in front during the over after tea.

The skipper and Borthwick then dominated the final session, Woakes regularly attacking while his partner was more watchful.

By the close the hosts were left to rue a couple of dropped chances, including a life for Woakes when wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella could not hold on.

Feb 192014
Rayner loving Lions opportunity

Ollie Rayner feels privileged to be representing England Lions having been surprised by his call-up.

The off-spinner was pressed into action today as the Lions continued their quest for a win in the ‘Test’ series versus Sri Lanka A having emerged triumphant in the opening encounter of two.

After just one day of the second game, they were well on top two having reduced their hosts to 281 for nine in Dambulla.

Rayner, who moved to Middlesex a couple of years ago with opportunities few and far between at Sussex, is relishing his time on the sub-continent.

“Middlesex has been great from me,” he told ecb.co.uk. “I left Sussex to get some cricket and it’s taken me a couple of years to get the bowling back to where I want it.

“But it’s paid dividends now. I worked very hard last year to get it back. Just to be out here is an absolute privilege for me

“I have training in rainy Finchley so even if I was carrying drinks for the whole tour, it would have been a great opportunity for me to get ready for the season.

“To be thought of in this sort of light is a real privilege. It is just really great to be here.”

Rayner did not pick up a wicket today yet proved the most economical of England’s tweakers, conceding 58 runs off 17 overs.

“I think it went quite nicely,” he added. “It was nice to get a good day out in the field and a few overs in the legs.

“It went well personally. I would have liked to have picked up a wicket but I feel like I did my job today.”

He feels, too, that conditions could become much more fruitful for him later in the game.

“I think it’s going to be quite slow but I think it will break,” he said. “They have a left-arm seamer as well so that could create some rough for me.

“The right-handers are creating good rough for the lefties, which they have a few of, as well.”

For now, though, Rayner and England can reflect on a fine opening-day’s work.

“It was an absolutely brilliant day,” he said. “I think, obviously, we would have wanted to bat first.

“That didn’t go our way but we never let them get away from us at any stage and the wickets came our way in clusters.

“The seamers were disciplined on what looked a very flat deck. Once batsmen got in, they were hard to get out.

“There were a couple of interesting shots, admittedly. But the bowlers were brilliant today and now we will go into tomorrow in a very favourable position.”

Feb 152014
Lions triumphant in Pallekele

England Lions’ bowlers completed a fine team performance as Sri Lanka A were swept aside by 167 runs in the first ‘Test’.

The tourists have dominated since the second act of the opening four-day game and, while victory took a little longer than expected, the margin was still comprehensive.

The hosts, having resumed on 164 for five in pursuit of a nominal 479, showed plenty of fight today as Madawa Warnapura took his overnight 30 to 108.

But Liam Plunkett, who also instigated a run-out, grabbed his second and third wickets, including that of Warnapura, while Moeen Ali and Tymal Mills chipped in with one apiece to dismiss Sri Lanka for 312.

It appeared England would quickly wrap up the win this morning as Plunkett made his presence felt immediately, running out Ishan Jayaratne.

Dhammika Prasad did not last much longer, ousted by Mills – for whom the wicket represented just reward after his fine bowling had gone unrewarded yesterday.

Yet Roshen Silva, who hit 63 not out, responded outstandingly alongside Warnapura as the duo put on a fine 113-run stand.

When the wicket finally came, it was Plunkett who struck with Warnapura’s fine knock coming to an end via a feather behind.

Tharindu Kaushal was not able to follow his predecessor’s heroics, off-spinner Moeen pinning him in front for a second scalp.

And Plunkett was on hand to wrap things up, castling Vishwa Fernando to leave the Lions well placed with two ‘Tests’ remaining in the rubber.


Feb 152014
Robinson talks up Lions

Mark Robinson has spoken of the hunger among his England Lions players to force their way into the senior side.

The Sussex coach is overseeing the second-string’s tour of Sri Lanka, which has begun with a victory over the home A side in the first of three ‘Tests’.

There have been an array of fine performances across that victory and Robinson knows all too well that his troops are determined to catch the eye of the selectors.

“You have some hungry players and some very honest players here, which is always a good start,” he told ecb.co.uk.

“I am just trying to tell them to concentrate on the game, the session or the battle they’re in now and the rest will take care of itself.

“There is some great talent here, some good prospects and these players need to just build on what they do here and take it into the county season step by step.”

For Robinson, the experience of leading the Lions is very new and he is loving every minute of it.

“It was strange initially because you’re a little bit out of your comfort zone,” he admitted.

“It’s a new experience for me; you’ve obviously got the support staff and a different remit and you’re starting afresh with a brand new group of players.

“So it was strange but I am really enjoying it. It has been a great learning curve. I have a fantastic support team who I’ve learnt off and you learn off the players as well.

“So far, touch wood, it’s been really rewarding.”

Robinson has particularly enjoyed how quickly the players have taken to their new surroundings.

“They have been really good,” he added. “It’s obviously a goal right from the beginning to try and bring different players from different counties, who have had different experiences, together for five weeks.

“They have been brilliant; they have worked really hard, gelled and responded just how we have wanted them to.”

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