Sri Lanka A draw level with Lions
England Lions were unable to build on a highly promising start as they suffered a four-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka A at the R Premadasa Stadium - a result that sets up a series-decider at the same venue on Monday.
Samit Patel and Alex Hales shared an opening partnership of 85 inside 14 overs to lay a solid platform for the tourists after they had been asked to bat first in Colombo.
However, the departure of the former, for 50, sparked a flurry of wickets and by the time Hales was caught and bowled by Seekkuge Prasanna for 62 in the 26th over, the Lions were rocking on 139 for six.
They were subsequently dismissed for 204 from 42.1 overs and unable to prevent Sri Lanka from overhauling their total, for the loss of six wickets, from an identical number of deliveries.
The hosts also benefited from a healthy first-wicket stand, Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhanuskha Gunathilleke, who hit 45 and 41 respectively, putting on 84. Batsmen fell at regular intervals thereafter, but the Lions' efforts proved in vain.
"After an excellent platform provided by Hales and Patel, batting exactly to plan, it was disappointing that a potentially powerful middle order caved so badly," said ECB performance director David Parsons.
"I think, though, that we’ve seen enough signs over recent matches that there is talent in this squad, and talent that is capable of taking the game away from Sri Lanka - even in their home conditions.
"We need to realise this potential to post the scores that these grounds require."
Seamer Thilan Thushara came in for particular punishment early on as Patel, promoted to open in a bid to counter Sri Lanka's spinners, and Hales scored freely.
Patel brought up his half-century from 45 balls, but failed to add to his score before being caught by Thushara off Gunathilleke, who then trapped James Vince lbw with his next delivery.
Skipper James Taylor also fell leg before, to Malinga Bandara for 12, and off-spinner Prasanna then removed Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler in the space of four deliveries before accounting for Hales.
Chris Woakes’ 28 was the only notable contribution from the lower order as the Lions scraped past 200.
By the time Patel made the first breakthrough with the ball, winning an lbw verdict against Karunaratne, Sri Lanka were almost halfway to their target, and only 77 were required when Gunathilleke was caught behind off Jack Brooks.
To their credit, Taylor’s men continued to plug away, with Woakes, Danny Briggs and Scott Borthwick each picking up a wicket and Patel snaring a second victim.
Kushal Perera and Bandara saw Sri Lanka home, however, with unbeaten knocks of 16 and 11.