ENGLAND endured a hard day in the field as they shipped 376 runs to the Sri Lankan Development XI, but there was the hint of a positive in Stuart Broad’s form and fitness.
Chamara Silva, searching for a Test recall after four years, scored 163 and dominated England’s bowling attack in scorching temperatures and 80% humidity.
It all added up to the hardest day to date on England’s brief tour, with particular concerns over firstchoice spinner Graeme Swann, who sent down 21 overs without success at a cost of nearly five an over.
But there will be some relief that Broad was first passed fit following an ankle sprain and then returned figures of three for 55, including two wickets in his first spell.
Broad, a pre-match doubt, revealed he had been concerned about aggravating the injury but was hopeful he had survived a testing day without further problems.
“I was bowling at match intensity, I wasn’t holding anything back,” said the seamer.
“It felt okay, though I probably wouldn’t say it felt better than okay.
“I was a little nervous this morning knowing I was going to have to pound through that left foot. But it’s pulled up pretty well and if I get some ice on it and rest up hopefully I’ll have no side effects.
“The first spell after lunch it was niggling me a touch but I didn’t take any antiinflammatories.
I wanted to feel what was going on.
“I just have to get the balance right in this game – I have to bowl enough to get myself aerobically fit and physically right but not bowl so much that I pull up stiff and sore with three days to go before the Test match.”
There was no doubting it was a chastening day for a touring side who had seen off their previous opponents, a Board XI, for 169 and 119 in their innings victory last week.
As well as Silva’s masterclass, there were halfcenturies for Thilina Kandamby and Angelo Perera, but Broad was not downcast by the experience.
He believes England should easily match their opponents’ efforts and will also benefit from some hard cricket.
“I never like to speak about the wicket until both sides have batted on it but if we don’t get 400 on there we need shooting,” he said.
“The run-rate today was a little bit high and Silva played very well but some of the shots he played at the end of his innings, he probably wasn’t playing with Test match pressure.
“It was probably a good day for us as a team. In the first game we bowled them out in 60 and 70 overs, which is unlikely to happen in the Tests.
“We’ve put ourselves through the mill a little bit in the field but it’s been good for us physically and for guys to find their tactics and make sure they can fire through the whole day and not cramp up.”
Such were the stifling conditions at the Singhalese Sports Club that Matt Prior took the unusual step of keeping wicket without his pads for much of the day.
Broad revealed the gloveman had lost 4kg in two sessions and was simply attempting to manage the conditions.
He said: “In this sort of heat you have to try and pinch a bit where you can. Fair play to him for giving it a go because he got through it unscathed.”