Moeen Ali starred with bat and ball as England eased to a 56-run victory over Sri Lanka A in a weather-affected clash in Colombo on Friday.
Moeen, who learnt on Thursday that he would dislodge Alex Hales as Alastair Cook’s opening partner, put on 94 for the first wicket with the England captain en route to scoring a 21-ball 50 and helping the tourists win via the Duckworth/Lewis method after the game was ended by bad light.
The Worcestershire man was also instrumental in ensuring the visitors had to chase down less than 200, taking 3-29 from his nine overs of spin, including the wickets of Dinesh Chandimal and Thilina Kandamby for ducks, in a game initially reduced to 43 overs per side due to overnight rain.
Moeen, who also removed Niroshan Dickwella, was the pick of England’s seven bowlers but seamer Chris Woakes and spinner James Tredwell produced economical spells of eight overs each, albeit without taking wickets.
Steven Finn, meanwhile, dismissed Kaushal Silva (2) early on – forcing the right-hander to edge behind to Jos Buttler – and then returned later to send Sri Lanka A’s second opener, Kusal Perera, packing for 56.
Perera had given the home side’s innings some substance, notching a 67-delivery half century including four fours and three sixes, but eventually holed out to Moeen at third man.
The 24-year-old’s demise, with Sri Lanka A perched on 104, preceded the fall of two more quick wickets – Kandamby pouched by Eoin Morgan and skipper Ashan Priyanjan (31 off 66) clipping into Buttler’s gloves off the bowling of Ben Stokes.
And although Jeevan Mendis (42no) and Ramith Rambukwella (30no) saw the hosts through to 198-6 with a partnership of 76 on a stodgy pitch, England would have been happy with their bowling efforts.
The only slight concern for Cook may have been the expensiveness of Chris Jordan, who shipped 48 runs from his five overs – and 25 from his initial two, the second of which contained three wides, a no-ball and a free-hit six for Perera.
Cook, though, would have been nothing but delighted with Moeen, who blasted six boundaries from the first six legitimate deliveries he faced from left-armer Vishwa Fernando in England’s reply.
Moeen reached 50 with a mammoth six over long-off off the twirl of Rambukwella – the maximum adding to his 10 fours – while Cook played briskly, too, plundering a quartet of boundaries and a six as England hurried to 92 without loss off 12 overs.
Moeen and Cook were finally dismissed by fast-medium bowler Lahiru Gamage with England on 94 and 116 respectively but there was to be no late drama, due in part to Ian Bell and Joe Root but mainly the skies.
Bell (16 not out off 35 balls) batted precisely, while Root (15 not out off 16 balls) cracked one four and scampered through for his others runs as England reached 145-2 in exactly 25 overs before the umpires led the players off the field.
No further action was possible in the truncated match in the Sri Lankan capital, meaning England kicked off their tour of the subcontinent with a morale-boosting victory.
Cook’s charges tackle Sri Lanka A again on Sunday, before engaging in seven one-day internationals with the full Sri Lanka side, beginning in Colombo on Wednesday.