Eoin Morgan stakes England claim with Lions century

Tour match, Derby (day one of four):
England Lions 394-4 v Sri Lanka
Match scorecard
Eoin Morgan punches the ball away through the leg side
Morgan scored close to a run a ball at Derby on Thursday

Eoin Morgan staked his claim to replace Paul Collingwood in England's Test team with an unbeaten 156 for England Lions against Sri Lanka.

Samit Patel also reached three figures on day one at Derby, scoring 101 not out as the pair put on an unbeaten 232 for the fifth wicket.

Morgan's rivals for the Test slot, Ravi Bopara and James Hildreth, scored 17 and 35 as the Lions made 394-4.

Dilhara Fernando was Sri Lanka's most successful bowler with 2-73.

The tourists started well as Thisara Perera yorked opener Jimmy Adams for four and they continued to make inroads into the Lions - a side containing many players on the fringe of Test selection.

Bopara, who is still thought the most likely candidate for England's vacant middle-order spot following Collingwood's retirement despite Morgan's heroics, was unable to press his claims.

He had already been dropped at second slip and survived a caught behind appeal when Fernando got one to climb and Bopara edged to keeper Prasanna Jayawardene.

Captain Hildreth had made 35 when the slingy Nuwan Pradeep knocked back his off stump.

At the other end the diminutive James Taylor, normally a middle-order batsman, made a good fist of his role as opener.

He had hit seven fours to go with his two sixes when Fernando got one to kick at him and convince umpire Tim Robinson, if not the batsman, that he must go caught behind for 76.

Morgan - back in the longer form of the game after a moderate stint in the Indian Premier League - and Patel then took charge, dominating the tourists' attack.

Left-hander Morgan, without a first-class century since his maiden Test hundred at Trent Bridge last summer, was chanceless on his way to reaching three figures from 128 balls.

There were 12 mostly well-timed fours, one mishit six hooked over his and the wicketkeeper's head off Fernando and another struck meatily over long-on off Tharanga Paranavitana's part-time off-spin.

Patel, back in favour after his well-chronicled difficulties achieving a level of fitness to satisfy England, could yet be on the fringes of Test selection as the extra batsman - thanks to his very useful second string as a left-arm spinner.

He too did his prospects no harm with 14 fours in his 131-ball hundred.

There were blemishes on 66 and then 72 when the usually reliable Mahela Jayawardene dropped his second slip catch of the day and Kumar Sangakkara was also culpable in the deep, both former captains spilling chances off new incumbent Tillakaratne Dilshan's off-spin.

But Morgan and Patel simply became more assured and adventurous, and displayed a mastery in increasingly benign conditions of the tourists' attack.

After his innings Morgan made light of the difficulty of switching codes and continents.

"I don't think it's a big challenge - you play every ball as you see it," said Morgan.

"The experience in the IPL has been invaluable, playing under a lot of pressure and in high-pressure situations.

"I think I learnt a lot out there. I brushed shoulders with legends of the game and learnt a lot from them."

He accepts there is nothing more he can do to convince England's selectors, who were out in force to watch today, that he should get the nod for the first Test, which begins in Cardiff on 26 May, ahead of Bopara.

But Morgan senses Thursday's innings could still tip the balance.

"The selectors were here today. Whoever plays well will probably play [in the first Test]," he said.

"I've only practised a couple of days since I got back. Today to get some time in the middle has been really good.

"I'm quite fresh. I've had a lot of cricket under my belt so I feel quite comfortable at the crease, but it's nice to get some runs and spend time in the middle."

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