Image credit - Gareth Copley
Judging how a tour will go based on a warm-up against a select XI is difficult. To say we won't see many of these players in international cricket is disrespectful to Sri Lanka, but without being able to watch each and every ball, you can't know the standard of opposition. So we're going to do what all good websites do, and make judgements based on scorecards.
England completed their first warmup today against a Sri Lanka XI, with a drawn match at Katunayake. Like with all 3-day warm-ups, the result is insignificant, you rarely get a result with so little time on the clock. However if you want to read into the performances, the initial signs are good.
England were allowed the opportunity to bat twice, making scores in excess of 300 on both occasions. There were good knocks for Joe Root (78), Jos Buttler (79), Zak Crawley (91) and Olly Pope (77). Although new England opener Dom Sibley did struggle to just 14 runs over two innings. There is a big question make over Sibley in relation to his ability to play spin in the sub-continent. The only thing in his favour here is that it wasn't a left-arm spinner that got him on both occasions but a right-arm medium fast.
Personally I think the only way to improve a weakness is to get experience. It's too early to say if Sibley has a weakness against spin, he may not have looked overly comfortable against New Zealand and South Africa, but he still returned a superb average after his first tour assignment. So I'd give him the benefit of the doubt here.
If there were any question marks surrounding the choice between Zak Crawley and Keaton Jennings, Crawley has put a stop of them convincingly. Crawley made scores of 43 and 91, whereas Keaton was disappointing in only scoring 19 and 23.
One thing I will say about warm-ups is that the pitches are sometimes the complete opposite to the test pitches. We've seen this historically where England have been warming up on a fast track and then show up at the first test to an absolute ragger. The umpire crew is also completely home dominated, so it's not uncommon to see a few dodgy LBW calls here and there. I'm not saying that happened here, but it's something to consider.
On the bowling front, England will be pleased to see positive returns from their spinners. Matty Parkinson took figures of 4-68, with Dom Bess supporting him with a line of 3-54. Regardless of if the tracks are a little quicker here than in 2020, if England hope to secure a series win, they'll need their spinners to perform and it's great to see the young lads coming good early on.
Jack Leach failed to bowl any overs, so it does appear as though he's still working his way back to full fitness after a frustrating winter of illness and injury.
It wasn't just the spinners. The always underappreciated Chris Woakes took 2 wickets for 21 runs and Saqib Mahmood also got into the action taking 1 wicket for 13 runs over 8 overs.
If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I'm a big fan of Mahmood. I always think that in Sri Lanka, pace bowlers need to be able to generate their own pace, and Mahmood is slightly quicker than most bowlers. Hopefully he gets a chance to make his test debut either in Galle or Colombo.