‘Hopefully the pitches will be better in the Tests… this was dead’: Moeen Ali hoping for more spin after day of struggle in Colombo warm-up match
- Sri Lanka Board Presidents XI declared on 392 for nine following day one
- It was often a struggle for England’s bowlers to get anything out of the pitch
- Three of those ‘wickets’ were players who retired after reaching half-centuries
- Moeen Ali took two wickets, while James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid and Joe Denly took one apiece
- England will get some batting practice on the second day on Wednesday
England found themselves in the unusual position of crossing their fingers for more sub-continental spin after their bowling attack struggled to make inroads on the first day of Test preparations in Sri Lanka.
With a week to go before the first Test the tourists began the first of two warm-up matches action by watching a strong Board XI rack up almost 400 runs on a defiantly unresponsive pitch in Colombo.
As acclimatisation work it doubtless did the trick, with 89.5 overs in energy-sapping humidity, 14 of their 16 fit players taking the field and eight turning their arm over.
Moeen Ali (right) celebrates with Ben Foakes after taking the wicket of Angelo Mathews
Moeen was the pick of England’s bowlers, taking two wickets on day one of the warm-up
Bowler Chris Woakes (right) and captain Joe Root react during day one of England’s warm-up match with a Sri Lanka Board Presidents XI in Colombo on Tuesday
James Anderson disturbs birds resting on the outfield as he chases down the ball in Colombo
Sri Lanka vs England
First Test – Galle
Second Test – Pallekele
Third Test – Colombo
Whether or not any of them advanced their own cause considerably is harder to say. Four of the home side made half-centuries, three of whom retired out, leaving a stumps score of 392 for nine which could easily have looked more concerning.
The surface gave little encouragement to the pacemen, who took two wickets in a combined 39 overs, and offered much less for the slow bowlers than is anticipated in Galle.
England have traditionally fared poor on spinning tracks but would rather take their chances than toil in vain on slow, low surfaces like this.
‘It was a good batting wicket, there wasn’t a lot of spin,’ said Moeen Ali, whose two for 64 represented England’s best return.
Ben Stokes (2nd left) is congratulated by team-mates after catching Lahiru Thirimanne
Kaushal Silva was one of three Sri Lankan batsmen to retire after reaching half-centuries
England captain Root and wicketkeeper Ollie Pope await a delivery during Tuesday’s play
‘Hopefully the wickets are a bit different in the Test matches. I hope they spin a lot more for everybody. This was quite slow, a dead sort of pitch. If you look at the previous Test matches here they’ve all been spinning big and probably not as flat as this wicket.
‘It’s not a concern, they scored a bit more than we would like but the guys needed to get overs in their legs.’
Predictions over England’s likely XI for the series opener seemed trickier to make by the end of play than they had been on before hand.
Spinner Jack Leach was a surprising absentee but he, along with seamer Olly Stone, may have benefited from sitting out in unfriendly conditions. Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes had the chance had the opposite fate.
They may find themselves vying for one shirt in the Test side but none stood out from the pack, Woakes the only wicket-taker of the three but also the most expensive.
Adil Rashid took just one wicket for 82 on a day of toil for England in their warm-up match
Stuart Broad failed to take a wicket during day one, going for 43 runs off his 11 overs bowled
Ben Foakes, the wicketkeeper, watches on as Ashan Priyanjan hits out in Colombo
Moeen’s fellow spinner Adil Rashid, meanwhile, again looked less confident with red ball in hand after a highly impressive limited-overs campaign.
The wicketkeeping issue, muddied somewhat by Jonny Bairstow’s ankle injury, also took a curious development as Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes and Ollie Pope each took a turn with the gloves.
‘I think there are (places to play for) definitely,’ said Moeen. ‘It’s the balance of the team – are we going to play three spinners? Two spinners? What seamers are going to play? Do you need pace or control?
‘That’s for the coach and captain to decide.’
England captain Root bowled six overs during the day, going wicketless for a total of 36 runs
Spectators sit on the rollers to watch the action at the Nondescripts Cricket Club, Colombo
Some England fans – including the ‘Beard Liberation Front CC’ – watched on in Colombo
England will bat for a full day on Wednesday, regardless of wickets lost, with a chance to see a new-look top three of Rory Burns, Keaton Jennings and Joe Denly.
‘We’re going to have to play well and I think we’ve got the players to do that,’ added Moeen.
‘I do think it’s a very good wicket but it’s more about guys spending time in the middle. You saw they had a couple of guys retire and maybe we’ll do the same.’
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