Joe Root, Ollie Pope reach warm-up fifties but some batsmen have work to do


Team Root make 184 for 2 from 50 overs before allowing Team Buttler time to bat

Team Root 184 for 2 (Root 74*) vs Team Buttler

England’s preparations for the Test series in Sri Lanka have stepped up a gear with the start of an intra-squad warm-up game in Hambantota. After tests revealed no new Covid-19 cases in the tour party, the squad have been split into two teams – Team Root vs Team Buttler – for the two-day game.

With no access to independent umpires or scorers, there is a slightly unusual look to proceedings. England’s director of men’s cricket, Ashley Giles, and their bowling coach on this tour, Jon Lewis, umpired in the first session. Paul Collingwood, the assistant coach, and Jeetan Patel, the spin bowling coach on their tour, umpired in the second.

But with the first Test less than a week away, there was no lack of intensity in the cricket. Joe Root has warmed-up for the series with 74 not out from 117 balls and added 95 for the third-wicket with a fluent Dan Lawrence, who made 46 not out. After 50 overs, when Team Root decided to allow Team Buttler a bat, the score was 184 for 2.

Zak Crawley (46 from 79 balls) also impressed for a while. He picked up five boundaries – the pick of them perhaps an authoritative pull off Saqib Mahmood – but fell just short of a half-century when he attempted to run one from legspinner Mason Crane behind point but could only feather an edge through to Jos Buttler.

Earlier James Bracey, who opened with Crawley, fell as he attempted to hit Dom Bess over the top but could only scoop a catch to mid-on.

Although the game is a two-day affair, the aim is for both sides to bat for 50 overs on the first day. There is rain expected on day two.

Moeen Ali, the only member of the tour party to have tested positive for the virus, remains in isolation in an otherwise empty wing of the team hotel, while Chris Woakes, who was considered a close contact of Ali, is expected to remain in quarantine for a couple more days.

There was a new face among the England support staff, though. Jacques Kallis, who has signed up as a batting consultant for this tour, arrived in Sri Lanka a few days ago but has now completed his quarantine period and joined up with the squad.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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