By Rob Barnett
Opening batsman Alex Lees’ maiden England Lions century in his second innings for them made light of tricky batting conditions on day one versus Sri Lanka A Emerging Players.
The 20-year-old left-hander held firm to share a first-wicket stand of 152 with Varun Chopra and went on to register 119 of the tourists’ 327 for five in their second tour match in Sri Lanka.
Lees’ fourth first-class ton in only 19 innings dominated the alliance with Chopra, who like number three James Taylor contributed 47 before Jonny Bairstow struck a swift 45.
Lees told ecb.co.uk: “I think every hundred that I get is slightly emotional no mater where I am. I like to think it means the same no matter where I am. But obviously when you’re representing your country at any level it’s very, very pleasing and that emotion comes in afterwards.”
The hosts, who held the Lions to a draw in another three-day game that ended on Monday, inserted their opponents in dewy conditions at Colombo’s Colts Cricket Ground.
Lees and Chopra showed great application to see off the new ball, with the former particularly demonstrating gritty determination against a battery of four seamers including Chaminda Bandara, whose 15 overs cost just 28.
Lees, who replaced Sam Robson at the top of the order, said: “On the sub-continent the new ball’s very important. Me and Varun were fortunate enough to get over that. We had a little bit of luck - I think you always need that in any innings - and we got through that and put on a real good opening first stand.”
It was the 40th over when spinner Akila Dananjaya had Chopra caught behind but Lees found another capable ally during a 75-run partnership with Taylor, who was leading the tourists in place of Chris Woakes.
Shehan Jayasuriya, another off-spinner, trapped Taylor in front and soon bowled Lees, who hit 15 fours, before Dananjaya cleaned up James Vince for 18.
Bairstow scored fluently until being the first player to fall to a seamer, a surprising statistic given the early conditions, Chathuranga de Silva beating his defence in the closing overs.
Ben Foakes and Scott Borthwick saw the Lions through to stumps with 24 and two respectively.
Lees added: “There’s three 'Test' matches coming now and hopefully I’ve put my hand up now for selection. I’ve got to build on this. The best players first of all get big hundreds... and they back it up with consecutive performances.”