Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 2nd unofficial ODI, Dambulla March 4, 2017

Chase a breeze for Gunathilaka after Livingstone's toil


Sri Lanka A 201 for 0 (Gunathilaka 121*, Kusal 70*) beat England Lions 217 (Livingstone 94, Duckett 59, Siriwardana 4-40) by 119 runs (DLS method)

File photo - Danushka Gunathilaka sauntered to a hundred as Sri Lanka A went 2-0 up © Getty Images

For Danushka Gunathilaka, there was the grand satisfaction of a dashing hundred to bring delight to a run-of-the-mill Dambulla day. A day that was not particularly humid, nor particularly hot. The sort of day to which he has awoken without a second thought for most of his 25 years. What intensity there was, was felt only in his strokeplay as he inflicted a 65-ball hundred upon an England Lions side that was ill-equipped to resist.

As the Sri Lanka A coach took him to the ground, Kandalama lake was at its best, the mountains and clouds reflected so starkly in the water that it would have been an unimaginative man who had not looked into it and wondered what the future would hold. Gunathilaka, who in January left Sri Lanka's tour of South Africa early with a back complaint, did his future no harm at all.

Gunathilaka ensured a rout, Sri Lanka A threatening to hoover up the Lions' 217 with all their wickets and around 20 overs to spare. As it was, rain and bad light intervened around 4pm and the winning margin was decided by the weather tables which always takes a little gloss off it.

But you felt that, if he could have persuaded anybody to bowl to him in the eventual downpour, he could have done it all again. At 2-0 up with three to play, Sri Lanka will have ambitions to take the series in Kurunegala on Monday. England will have to bat brilliantly to stop it because the evidence of the first two matches is that their bowling resources are limited.

When Gunathilaka reached his hundred by flaying Craig Overton for successive off-side boundaries, his leaping punch of the air told of unspent energy levels. His first-wicket stand with Kusal Perera was worth 123 in the opening match on Thursday, but ended in unfortunate fashion when he pulled a wide one down the leg side. This time, Gunathilaka and Kusal as good as saw it home, utterly dominant throughout, the most uncertain moment coming when Gunathilaka was 73, Keaton Jennings forcing a top-edged pull but James Fuller spilling the chance.

For Liam Livingstone, whose upbringing has toughened him against the sharp sea air of Barrow on the Cumbrian coast, but left him somewhat exposed to a Sri Lankan climate, the heat was more exhausting, the most pressing question being whether his energy levels would be expended before the Lions' innings was spent. It was a close run-thing - Livingstone was last out for 94, his ambitions of a third hundred on this ground in little more than a week thwarted by a diving catch at deep midwicket by Kithuruwan Vithunage.

Liam Livingstone cools off in the changing rooms after making 94 © ECB

Livingstone first fell to his haunches soon after passing fifty and as he entered the 80s he needed treatment for cramp in both legs. At least England's regular loss of wickets allowed him ample opportunities to take on fluid, the ritual duly enacted under a multi-coloured umbrella brought on by the 12th man, Graeme White, to protect him from the sun, which made him look like a member of an old colonial club. At Old Trafford, where Livingstone plays most of his cricket, they only ever put up umbrellas for rain.

Livingstone is a violent strokemaker, not naturally given to energy conservation, although those who witnessed his two hundreds in the four-day match on this ground say that the second, where he pushed the ball around quietly, revealed a capacity to adapt. He favours a one-legged whip through the leg side which is vaguely reminiscent of Kevin Pietersen, a sort of flamingo on steroids. The umpires, kind-hearted souls, agreed that it was pretty hot and it is easy to look on from an air-conditioned media box and list many hotter and more humid days. He looks mightily impressive and the odds are that one day he will not cramp in conditions much more onerous and with more at stake.

Livingstone's plucky innings was one of the few redeeming features of a Lions effort in which Ben Duckett also looked more like his old self in making 59 from 45 balls - their counterattacking stand worth 81 in 10 overs - before he was well caught at deep mid-off during a canny spell from Thisara Perera, who took the pace off the ball to return 2 for 17 in six overs. Tom Alsop was his other victim, an aberration as he inexplicably chipped to long-on with only a single to his name.

Joe Clarke, without ever looking fluent was the only other Lions batsman to reach double figures, one of four victims for the left-arm spin of Milinda Siriwardena. The Sri Lanka A captain, a veritable A-team veteran at 31, did not allow himself a bowl in the opening match but he finished with 4 for 40 here, with Livingstone the most satisfying of his victims.

Livingstone was unable to take the field for the start of Sri Lanka A's reply, which immediately undermined the Lions' decision to omit Toby Roland-Jones and field an extra batsman. That realistically demanded a full spell of offspin from Livingstone, who had been the Lions' most economical bowler in the opening match, with only Jennings' medium-pace as a fall back.

He emerged five overs late with the heavy-legged gait of a man who had spent all day fell running in the Cumbrian mountains. He came on to bowl the 12th over, the first ball revealed his vulnerability, Gunathilaka unsympathetically despatched his next ball over long-on for six and it was an air of resignation that he took refuge again in the pavilion after painfully completing the over. Jennings subbed himself in and a single over went for 21, Fuller's drop followed by successive sixes.

Gunathilaka, who toured England last summer, ended unbeaten on 121 from 88 balls, clearing the boundary on six occasions. This Lions attack has yet to command respect and when bad light descended it would have been sensible to put them out of their misery with only 17 runs needed from more than 21 overs remaining. Instead the players had to sit around for the inevitable defeat and only found out the match was off when they saw the match referee scurrying to his transport in the pouring rain.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jackie on March 6, 2017, 0:19 GMT

    Andy Flower was interviewed on the eve of these matches and we were told he was full of vim about the state of preparation and his expectation of England Lions. David Hopps and Cricinfo are providing a very good service following the fortunes of the England A team. So far Sri Lanka A are 2-0 in the unofficial ODIs. Does anyone in the ECB monitor these performances or weaknesses in the side? Players are always blamed for poor performances, never the coaching staff. Cricket coaches have a relatively easy time of it compared to coaches of other sports. Only when England lose the Ashes 5-0 do heads usually roll. After England's debacle in 2013-14 Flower's coaching was called into question by the English media as being too controlling. The coach was moved from the position. But now he's in charge of the England Lions and the Academy and has power over County coaches who report to him. If his charges do not do as well as expected, what then?

  • Dileep on March 5, 2017, 18:59 GMT

    For Champions trophy ODI tournament I reckon this should be SL's X1:

    1. Dickwella 2. Tharanga 3. D Gunathilaka 4. Kusal Mendis 5. Chandimal/Sandun Weerakoddy 6. Angelo Mathews 7. Milinda Siriwardana 8. Thisara Perera 9. Lahiru Madushanka 10. Vikum Sanjaya 11. Sandakan

    Basically Sri Lanka need to bat all the way down to number 9 at least, batting needs to be deep in order for the rest to play fearlessly. Also Sandakan is a wicket taking bowler, he needs to play in all conditions.

    Tharanga showed his class with that 119 off 90 balls in SA, he has scored so many 100s in ODIs as an opener and in England too, he has the class, composure, style and shots to play the big matchwinning innings at the top, no point playing him in the middle order, if he plays - has to be as an opener because he is not a power player.

  • Sajith on March 5, 2017, 14:30 GMT

    Just as Guna scored and came in to form, UTFan is here to pollute it. Just wait till Sadeera comes to party, and Munaweera to team, toothless Tharanga will not be able to block these youngsters future using experienced card again and again. Danushka, Munaweera, Sadeera, Ron all deserve chances in the team based on their performance, they are not cry babies like Tharanga who even at age of 31, hold on to excuses of not having selected to team earlier. Just look at Asela and Munaweera, they didn't cry about the past, they just shown how good they are by actions. Thats why they do not need to pay money to agents who go shopping in public forums.

  • Sam on March 5, 2017, 13:53 GMT

    Wohoo.... both Gunatillake and Kusal are getting in to form. They both scored in a previous match too. Big fan of both but what are we going to do? Tharanga will feel the heat but then who is going to captain? Who is coaching the A team? Might be a good replacement for Ford. No confidence in that guys, not one player has improved under him, except for maybe Asela. Inform Dickwella, Gunatillake, Kusal P, Asela and Thisara can be a lethal combination. A few bowlers come to the party, we can definitely give a run for the money in CL.

  • Andrew on March 5, 2017, 13:44 GMT

    I agree with @ Gravity_down. After getting 15 consecutive Odi chances, Dhanushka's ODI batting average is only 25.13 (similar to Kusal Perera 65 odis -26 Av). Dhanushka failed as Opener on lively decks in Eng (5 odis- 142 runs @ 28.40 Av) as well as in NZ (5 Odis - 105 runs @ 26. 25 Av). He may be useful in t20. Try him with t20 format in overseas conditions. Flat track heroes thrive on homely conditions hardly bloom elsewhere. That is one lesson to be learned from unending costly experiments done with "Openers"during past few years (dumping many overseas series).

  • idlmar0771785 on March 5, 2017, 12:18 GMT

    Sri Lanka is winning so well even without Pushpakumara, their best bowler in the Tests. Why is he in the squad & not play, to give chances to Aponso? That is not good , we should play Pushpakumara ,for him to get some experience in the one day game also before the ODIs.If he plays England A will have no place to run.

  • hthisu3298425 on March 5, 2017, 12:01 GMT

    I think it is too early to say who is in form and who is not.

  • Sajith on March 5, 2017, 7:56 GMT

    Gunathilaka is not knocking selectors door, he just banging it.

  • Nimrod on March 5, 2017, 7:49 GMT

    Dhanushka gunathilaka deserves to be re-called into the SL squad against BD and champions cup tournament. Also see how he goes in the remaining matches against England lions.

  • Raman on March 5, 2017, 5:13 GMT

    Although KJP did not play his usual gate opener role in this match his strike rate was only 88%. That does not warrent a recall to the senior side sooner.

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