England Lions in Sri Lanka 2016-17 March 2, 2017

India flashback for Duckett as Sri Lanka stroll


Sri Lanka A 278 for 7 (Gunathilaka 64) beat England Lions 230 for 9 (Jennings 64) by 47 runs (DLS method)

Duckett scored a double-hundred in Lions colours last summer, but found his trial by spin to be a tougher proposition © Getty Images

If Ben Duckett was looking for an immediate pick-me-up on the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka after his disheartening time in India, he discovered that life can sometimes be less accommodating than that. The teething problems against high-quality spin that abruptly stilled his Test career were again in evidence as Sri Lanka A strolled the first of five one-day matches.

Sri Lanka's 47-run win on a DLS calculation came in mildly farcical circumstances when play was suspended for bad light with England nine-down and still 60 short with five overs remaining. Vikum Sanjaya bowled a bouncer at the Lions' last man, Josh Poysden, the light meters came out and that was that. It was a predictably unsatisfying end after no overs had been removed when the match had started half-an-hour late after overnight rain.

Whether Duckett breaks into the Champions Trophy squad this summer will not entirely depend on his fate over the next 10 days or so - England in June does not bear too much relation to the challenges on subcontinent pitches and he has too much natural talent to be subdued for long - but England will want to see evidence on this tour that he has suffered no lasting effects from his exposure against Ashwin and co.

Instead, first up was an uncomfortable reminder of his India issues. This time the off-break bowler was Danushka Gunathilaka, who might not have Ashwin's reputation - indeed, he has five international wickets in 21 appearances - but who unpicked the Northants' left-hander efficiently enough. Duckett was 17 when he advanced down the line of leg stump to strike Gunathilaka over the off side only to be stumped by a distance.

England have given him every chance to get into one-day mode, omitting him from the four-day leg of the tour as if to stress that they want his rehabilitation to come with a strong one-day bias. They want the Lions players to feel the scrutiny, despite the tiny crowds, and even after one game he will know what they mean.

It was Duckett's prodigious form for the Lions last summer, backed by heavy run-making for Northants, which catapulted him into England reckoning. Four innings brought 448 runs at an average of 224, including an unbeaten 220 against Sri Lanka A in Canterbury. Not that Sri Lanka were likely to suffer any ill effects from those memories with only Thisara Perera, a veteran in A-team terms at 27, surviving from that XI.

The presence not just of Thisara Perera, but Kusal Perera too, amplified the difference in experience between the two sides. Sri Lanka had 10 players with international experience, the Perera twosome accounting for more than half of their 400-plus caps. The Lions could point only to a handful of caps for Duckett and the captain, Keaton Jennings, all of them won in recent months.

Jennings habitually got out when set in the two four-day matches, so his adept 64 from 70 balls to underpin England's pursuit of 290 in 48 overs represented an improvement. A top-edged sweep against the round-arm offspin of Shehan Jayasuriya caused his downfall, the first of four Lions wickets to fall for 15 runs in 28 balls and, at 133 for 7, effectively sealed their fate.

Sri Lanka's winning margin was trimmed thanks to a defiant eighth-wicket stand of 73 in 11 overs between Liam Livingstone, who was on the back of two hundreds in a match in Pallekele, and Craig Overton, who had done little else than sit and watch them. Overton's first match of the tour was an impressive one: an unbeaten 60 from 45 balls - his first List A half-century - plus two top-order wickets in Sri Lanka A's 278 for 7, an innings ended 11 balls early because of rain. As a youngster, he was a batsman who bowled and to be carded at No 9 here is something that should cause him to aspire to better things.

With Sri Lanka A fielding seven left-handers in the top eight, the Lions were grateful not just for Overton's lead with the ball but also for Livingstone's sound stint of offspin, only 28 conceded in a spell that allowed little width and, after he dismissed Sandun Weerakkody in his final over, caught at the wicket, rounded off with two legspinners to the incoming right-hander.

But the Lions' seam attack lacked variety, James Fuller had an off-day and Poysden dropped his legspinners repeatedly short and suffered as a consequence. Half-centuries from the openers Kusal Perera and Gunathilaka in an opening stand of 123, plus a hard-hitting unbeaten 56 off 35 balls from Thisara Perera, gave Sri Lanka A dominance they never relinqushed.

Outplayed in England last summer, they are a different proposition here. Duckett is not alone in recognising that.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • alan on March 4, 2017, 9:53 GMT

    It Really is Unfortunate that the likes of Chandimal, thisara KJ perera can only score runs in SL of recent my only worry is that they will unseat the places that youngsters earned by the way of hard work , above players should be tried in a team overseas tours , . on another note it is heartening to see livingstone performances

  • Mark on March 3, 2017, 17:50 GMT

    A big up to David Hopps. For taking the time out to reply to cricket fans on cricinfo. This doesn't happen very often on cricinfo.

  • Pelham on March 3, 2017, 13:36 GMT

    WolfberriesToo on March 2, 2017, 14:52 GMT: You really need to think of the use of D/L(/S) in this match in the two separate stages.

    Firstly, Sri Lanka A's innings was cut off when they could reasonably have expected to score quite a few more runs off the 11 balls remaining, even with 7 wickets down, while England Lions knew from the start of their innings that it was going to be at most 48 overs, and could pace the innings accordingly. Thus it is reasonable that EL's target was somewhat higher than SLA's total.

    Secondly, when EL's innings was terminated with five overs unbowled, EL were already 9 wickets down, so the expected runs in those five overs were low: one more wicket and they would have no opportunity to score further runs. Thus the par score at that stage is reasonably very close to the par score for the full (48 over) innings.

    If EL's innings had been reduced to 43 overs at the start, the whole calculation would have been done differently.

  •   David Hopps on March 3, 2017, 6:37 GMT

    @DSI You make a strong case. But the narrative at the moment is about a batsmen exposed by quality spin and for someone so new to international cricket that narrative stretches, at least for the moment, across all forms of the game and is seen to potentially undermine him in all formats. The only way to change that is to score runs, to show there is no lasting damage. As soon as that happens, India Tests will become largely irrelevent to Ben Dukett's one-day appeal. Then your argument will naturally hold sway, and England will probably have to perm three from four - Hales, Billings, Duckett, Bairstow - for their Champions Trophy squad.

  • hthisu3298425 on March 3, 2017, 3:46 GMT

    All of our failure batsmen(KusalP,Thisara & Milinda) scored well means there should be huge issue on England bowling in that match.

  • Nandan on March 3, 2017, 3:18 GMT

    Ben should pick up his phone and speak to Mathew Hayden on how he overcame the same problem.I would also be curious to know if he spoke to Gavaskar, Manjrekar and Shastri when in India on how to play spin. Getting out stumped to spin is a cardinal sin. Trust Livingstone, Overton will soon be in the side and perform well in Australia. Wonder why Overton did not open the bowling as the Lankans had a century opening stand.Unless he is extremely right in length a legspinner will always be a luxury which is ill afforded.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 3, 2017, 3:16 GMT

    @hopps: Thanks for replying. I don't think it's possible to credibly argue that his Test performances hold merit in dropping him from the ODI side, because if that was applied to all (which should then be the case), Hales wouldn't have faced South Africa in SA, in the subsequent ODIs, after his awful Test series. He went on to score 5 consecutive 50+ scores, with the last being a ton. Also, Morgan has failed in Test cricket, and is mostly cold rather than hot in ODIs (which matters more as a specialist batsman), yet his Test failures are not held against him. Also, Roy is not even in contention for a Test spot, so essentially, if you were to compare Duckett to Roy, Duckett is being judged by a higher bar, because he is seen as being good enough for Test cricket, and yet his failures in Tests are viewed more harshly than a batsman that is not even considered to be good enough to be selected for the format. I hope you see that viewpoint. The alternative view has multiple shortcomings.

  • Raveen on March 2, 2017, 23:57 GMT

    Two pereras show off playing b grade teams and fail on internationals. Thisara should only be picked on batting merit. He can't bowl full quota of overs. Kusal need to prove more this is not enough. Should loose kithriwan he does not have the technique and wasting someone else's spot.

  • Dileep on March 2, 2017, 22:22 GMT

    @Herath UK, I am a Tamil Sri Lankan who has always supported the Sri Lankan cricket team. The Captain of Sri Lanka Angelo Mathews is half Tamil and Russel Arnold, 'the voice' of Sri Lankan cricket in international cricket commentary terms is also Tamil, as is the greatest Sri Lankan cricketer of all time Muralitharan. At the end of the day, Sri Lanka is a diverse cultural landscape comprising Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim and Burgher communities among others, so please don't wrongly equate 'Sri Lankan' with 'Sinhalese'

  • geoffs8103821 on March 2, 2017, 21:43 GMT

    I feel Ben Duckett should considerate playing just limited over cricket for the time being and educate himself more in the county championship before having another crack at test cricket.

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