Westley helps Lions to Sri Lanka A victory


Tom Westley scored 97 in England Lions first innings to lay the platform for a comprehensive 195 run victory against Sri Lanka A in Kandy.

Tom Curran ended with three for 35 and Sam Curran cleaned up the last three wickets for 21 either side of lunch – including an absolute jaffa that was one of the highlights of the match.

With the other four wickets shared by the Middlesex trio of Ollie Rayner, Tom Helm and Toby Roland-Jones, who also made important batting contributions to build on first-innings half-centuries from Tom Westley and Liam Livingstone, captain Keaton Jennings was able to reflect on a genuine team performance.

“That’s the great thing, everyone has chipped in,” said the Durham opener.

“As a whole team performance it was absolutely brilliant. It’s a good bowling attack to captain, with a lot of variety, and a really good bunch of guys to captain as well.

“Those runs we got lower down the order in the first innings were very important in setting up the game, and with Helmy nearly getting a career best in the second innings as well, they might find themselves opening the batting.”

That was a reference to the area with the most obvious room for improvement, as the Lions lost early wickets in both innings.

“We all know our roles and responsibilities, and as a top order batter you want to score runs,” added Jennings, who top-scored in the second innings with 37 but still included himself in the criticism. “Not everybody can score runs all the time. But you’ve got to make sure you try and take care of that role, show the grit to get through those tough periods and get runs.

“From a bowling point of view as well, there’s a few plans we can come up with now we’ve seen a few of their guys. That’s the exciting thing, the room for improvement in the second game in Dambulla.

“But this was a very good team performance – very enjoyable.”

Tom Curran had already taken one wicket, with the first ball of the innings, when the home team resumed their bid for a distant victory target of 365 on 41 for two, and he added a second victim in his first over of the day, shaping one away from the right-handed Roshen Silva for Ben Foakes to take a low catch.

Helm then took a wicket in his first over for the second time in the match, surprising Charith Asalanka with extra lift for Foakes to claim another catch.

Rayner had already been introduced from the Pavilion End and he gained reward for his accuracy when the Sri Lankan captain Dhananjaya de Silva pushed forward and edged to Livingstone at slip.

Dilruwan Perera gifted Rayner his second wicket of the innings and his fifth of the match, sweeping to Helm at square leg, and Jennings then recalled Tom Curran whose pace was too much for Malinda Pushpakumara.

In the next over Sam angled one across Lahiru Gamage for Rayner to take a sharp catch to his right at second slip, and his next ball would have been too good for far better players than Kasun Rajitha as it swung into the right-hander, then left him off the pitch to clip the off stump.

Asitha Fernando survived the hat-trick ball and proceeded to frustrate the Lions not only for the one over remaining until the scheduled lunch, but for the extra half hour available with nine wickets down– and then for several more overs after that – in the company of the left-handed opener Udara Jayasundera, who had played sensibly throughout.

Finally, after hitting five fours and a six in a new first-class best of 30, Fernando miscued a drive to mid-on where Nick Gubbins made no mistake – ending a last-wicket stand of 54 in 14 overs, and leaving Jayasundera with the consolation of having carried his bat for 64 from 166 balls.