Livingstone hits second century in England Lions defeat
Lancashire batsman Liam Livingstone hit his second century of the match for England Lions but his efforts were not enough to prevent Sri Lanka A squaring the two-match series with a breathless three-wicket win in Dambulla.
Livingstone joined Kevin Pietersen as only the second batsman in the 35-year history of England B, England A and England Lions cricket to score a century in each innings of a first-class match, ending unbeaten on 140 to follow his 105 in the first innings.
The Lions were dismissed for 284, leaving the Sri Lankans needing only 90 for victory in the evening session.
They made very heavy weather of it, even though the rain and bad light that had ended play early on the previous two days did not arrive to help the Lions.
Tom Curran provoked some early wobbles with three wickets in his new-ball spell, and then switched ends to claim a fourth – giving him 10 for the series.
But it was the introduction of Jack Leach that cranked up the tension, as the Somerset left-arm spinner claimed two stumping victims in consecutive overs – and when Ollie Rayner had Dinush Karunaratne caught behind, the Sri Lankans had stumbled to 82 for seven.
Karunaratne’s wicket was historic for Foakes, who kept superbly throughout, as it gave him 10 victims in the match – five in each innings – which broke the previous record for the Lions and their predecessors, set by Steve Rhodes against Transvaal in 1993.
But with only five overs of the last hour remaining, Malinda Pushpakumara stroked Rayner against the spin and through the covers for the winning boundary – and the uncapped left-arm spinner was a fitting matchwinner, as he had done so much damage to the Lions with 13 wickets in the match.
Jeffrey Vandersay, a leg-spinner who has played 14 times for Sri Lanka’s T20 and one-day teams, had struck the first important blow when the Lions resumed their second innings on 32 for two, bowling Tom Westley with a beauty that turned sharply to clip his off stump.
Then Pushpakumara lured Keaton Jennings down the pitch and had him stumped to leave the Lions on 58 for four.
But Foakes then joined Livingstone to bat for the majority of the morning session in a fifth-wicket stand of 107 in 36 overs.
The Surrey wicketkeeper was the first to reach his half century, from 72 balls with six fours, but fell to the last ball before lunch when he edged Pushpakumara to slip.
The Curran brothers both fell cheaply soon after the resumption. Livingstone continued to play the spinners with confidence, and reached his century from 156 balls with his 11th four, having also pulled a six over mid-wicket.
It means the 23-year-old Cumbrian has doubled his previous tally of two first-class hundreds in this match, and emulated a feat achieved previously only by Pietersen, for England A against South Zone in India in 2004.
The Middlesex pair of Toby Roland-Jones and Rayner both fell after reaching double figures, and although Leach joined Livingstone to frustrate the Sri Lankans for 13 overs spread over 45 minutes -in which the Somerset man made a single from 27 balls as Livingstone skilfully milked the strike – the extra half hour available on the fourth day because of play lost on the previous two meant that time remained on the home team’s side.
Livingstone batted for a total of 454 minutes in the match.
England Lions Head Coach Andy Flower was particularly impressed with the Lancashire batsman.
Andy Flower said, “The stand-out 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 sub-continental 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.
“The experience of playing on a turning track, and coming out on top with 140 not out, will give him tremendous confidence. He’ll take that confidence with him now, and that is so important to your chances of doing well. So it’s really significant for him I think. We had an England selector, Angus Fraser, here for both of the games as well."