England Lions head coach Richard Dawson was naturally impressed with what he saw from his side as they won convincingly at the MCG – the Lions’ first ever victory over an Australia A side.
Playing under floodlights with a pink ball at the iconic venue could have been daunting enough, but facing a side featuring nine internationals boasting over 150 caps between them at the highest level may also have been cause for concern.
Many of those concerns were alleviated by the end of the second day, though, as England racked up 428 runs in their first innings having been put into bat by their hosts and then dismissed the top five Australian batsmen for a little over 100.
The trickiest part of an innings under lights, according to Dawson, is seeing out the second new ball when the floodlights are at their strongest late in the evening. On day one, Dom Sibley and Dan Lawrence managed just that, putting on 219 runs in their partnership that spanned 65 overs to see out the day.
Batting for long periods of time is something Chris Silverwood and Joe Root are encouraging in the senior England team, and the presence of some recent Test debutants in the side has helped the Lions achieve a similar goal. The side scored over 600 against a Cricket Australia XI in Hobart last week, with another big total following at the MCG.
“It’s nice to have people like Dom and Zak [Crawley] coming back to Lions cricket from the England changing room where that has been discussed,” Dawson said.
“We’ve got the ability in the changing room to bat for long periods and doing that in Hobart and doing it again here is pleasing and something we’ll look to repeat in the third game.
“It’s good to have individuals scoring hundreds but equally important to see them building big partnerships as well. The 150 or 200 run partnerships allow you to put on those big totals and keep the opposition out in the field, making it physically demanding for them. All of those things added together will build you the ascendancy in the game.”
The Lions are unbeaten so far on the tour, winning the three completed one-day matches and claiming a victory and a draw in the two four-dayers to date. With the squad suffering injuries to captain Lewis Gregory and fellow seamer Richard Gleeson in Hobart, the quick bowlers needed some extra care to ensure they were at their best for the challenging MCG match starting just four days later.
“We did a lot of work with the physio and S&C coach to make sure they were physically ready,” Dawson explained. “We weren’t asking them to do much skills work because we’d done a lot of that in Hobart and in the other preparation.
“We prepared them physically and got them ready to do their job as best as possible ahead of the MCG and we’ll do a similar thing ahead of the last match. We’ve got four or five days now where we’ll get ready for that final push. It’s not about bowling a hundred balls or hitting a hundred balls, it’s about getting ourselves mentally ready to go out and do the job again.”
That last match starts on Monday, 2 March against a New South Wales XI in Wollongong. Sibley, Crawley, Keaton Jennings and Dom Bess will all depart the squad ahead of the match to join up with the senior side in Sri Lanka, offering match opportunities for some players who have yet to feature.
“There’s a natural turnover with four of the lads going to Sri Lanka to meet up with the first team, but it’ll be no different for the rest of the squad,” Dawson said. “Those who haven’t been in the team have been outstanding, both in helping out during the games and keeping up their skills in training.
“There will be an opportunity in Wollongong for those who haven’t played yet to show how good they can be. There’s no magic formula, but we’ll just continue what we’re doing to make sure we’re ready for Wollongong.”