England Lions: Pushpakumara 13 Helps Seal Dramatic Win

February 28, 2017

Malinda Pushpakumara claimed a 13-wicket haul and then hit the winning runs as Sri Lanka A completed a dash to victory in Dambulla to square the unofficial Test series with England Lions.

Needing 90 to win during the final session, having been defied for much of the day by Liam Livingstone's second hundred in the match, Sri Lanka A lost wickets regularly but did enough to hold off the Lions' unlikely tilt at snatching victory. Udara Jayasundera made 32 off 36 and Dhananjaya de Silva, Sri Lanka A's captain, 23 off 13 to bring the target in sight before Pushpakumara finished the job after a late wobble.

The Lions began the final day still 163 runs in arrears and were grateful for Livingstone's painstaking, unbeaten 140; in all he batted for seven-and-a-half hours in the match, becoming only the second batsman after Kevin Pietersen to score a century in each innings of a first-class match for England Lions (or their predecessors, England A and England B).

Ben Foakes was the only other Lions batsman to pass 20, though, as the Sri Lanka A spinners worked their way through the order. Pushpakumara claimed 5 for 78 to go with his eight-wicket haul in the first innings, finally leaving Livingstone stranded when he bowled Jack Leach for 1 after a dogged 12-over, last-wicket stand.

Tom Curran threatened to spark an upset, taking the first four wickets to fall. Sri Lanka A were 34 for 3 when first-innings centurion Sadeera Samarawickrama was dismissed but Jayasundera and de Silva added 34 in 4.2 overs to regain the momentum.

The stand was broken by Curran and then Sri Lanka A lost three wickets for four runs to Leach and Ollie Rayner to leave them 82 for 7. When Dimuth Karunaratne, batting down at No. 6 after making a career-best 212 at opener in the first innings, was caught behind off Rayner, Foakes had ten victims in the match - including a couple of stumpings off Leach - to set a new Lions record. But with the skies remaining clear, Pushpakumara and Jeffrey Vandersay got Sri Lanka A over the line with five overs to spare.

"It was a valuable experience for all of us," Lions coach Andy Flower said. "There were some outstanding performances in the game, and the primary examples of that were Ben Foakes, mainly with his wicketkeeping, and Liam Livingstone."

"I know Bruce French, our lead wicketkeeping coach, was really proud watching Foakes's performance, because he's put in so many hours with Ben over the years, and the culmination of that was a real artist's performance with the gloves. Ten dismissals, but they were good dismissals - it's not like they were all straightforward nicks. A number of them were standing up to the wicket, both stumpings and catches, and he took one of the best catches I've seen from a wicketkeeper diving to his right - and that was in the 128th over.

"The other standout was Livingstone, in both innings. I really enjoyed watching both innings, and one of the most enjoyable things was he looks like he's growing quite quickly as a player. Some of the things he's been working on in the training camps seem to have come to the fore in his play of spin. It was a really great performance on a typical subcontinental wicket - dusty, turned a bit, skidded a bit, he had to bat for long periods against spinners operating from both ends, where the slightest mistake could mean you're out. He showed the tactics and the skill to manage that."

After the Lions had resumed on 32 for 2, Vandersay made the opening breakthrough by bowling Tom Westley for 12. Keaton Jennings was then stumped off Pushpakumara, giving the left-armer his tenth in the match, but Livingstone and Foakes combined to hold up the home side during a partnership of 107 in 36 overs.

Foakes fell to the final ball before lunch, edging Pushpakumara to slip, and the Curran brothers were both dismissed in single figures with the Lions still in deficit. Livingstone continued to play with authority, however, reaching his fourth first-class hundred off 156 balls, with 11 fours and a six.

In partnership with Toby Roland-Jones, Livingstone eked the Lions into a lead, before Rayner and Leach helped add valuable extra runs but with extra time available to make up for overs lost on days two and three, Sri Lanka A were not to be denied.


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