Brutal Buttler delivers in Lions win
Jos Buttler’s blistering unbeaten century thrust England Lions towards a 68-run triumph in the first of five one-day internationals with Sri Lanka A.
Buttler flayed five sixes and 13 fours in a 56-ball 102 as James Taylor’s tourists amassed 335 for five from 50 overs at a sultry Dambulla.
Opener Alex Hales’ relatively steady 94 from 103 deliveries plus 47 and 53 respectively from Jonny Bairstow and Craig Kieswetter, whose innings occupied 41 balls, were also vital.
Nathan Buck and Samit Patel then shared seven wickets to limit the hosts, ending with 4-39 and 3-52 respectively in a total of 267 all out in 45.3 overs.
However, the youngsters who honed their skills in Bangladesh this month played at least an equal role to the England quartet in an outstanding team performance.
After home captain Thilina Kandamby won the toss, left-arm seamer Thilan Thushara had Joe Root and Taylor caught behind in the opening powerplay - the former for a run-a-ball 18.
Hales and Bairstow combined for a stand of 120, which ended when paceman Kosala Kulasekara trapped the latter in front. Leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna soon snared Hales, who skied an attempted sweep after hitting seven fours and two maximums.
Somerset duo Kieswetter and Buttler upped the anted by putting on 106 in 12.2 overs until Thushara, who claimed 3-72, removed England’s first choice limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman.
Buttler then dominated an unbroken alliance of 56 with Patel, including 26 from the last over, as only off-spinner Suraj Randiv, whose 10 wicketless overs cost 40, was inexpensive for Sri Lanka A.
Paceman Dernbach removed Mahela Udawatte in the first over of the reply, but Dimuth Karunaratne and number three Malinda Warnapura rallied.
Seamer Buck, who took six wickets in the two T20 internationals with Bangladesh A, continued his outstanding form by having both caught - Warnapura for 29 and then Karunaratne for 23.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Kandamby added 61 before left-arm spinner Patel broke through to dismiss the former for 44 from 43 balls. Patel struck again, bowling Kushal Perera for 20.
Buck cleaned up Kulasekara for nought and crucially snared Kandamby for 54, leaving Sri Lanka A in trouble on 201 for seven.
Randiv and Kanishka Alvitigala briefly prospered but Patel trapped the former in front for 33 from 14 balls and Woakes picked up the latter for one run less. Dernbach, a specialist at the death, returned to bowl Prasanna.
Ahead of the sides next meeting on Sunday at the same venue, performance director David Parsons said: “We have seen enough evidence from the Sri Lankans today in a high-scoring match to know that they have some very talented players that will test the Lions throughout the series.
"We expect them to come back at us hard in the second match in Dambulla.”