Matt Parkinson shows promise as England’s spinners shine in Sri Lanka

Matt Parkinson led the way as England’s attack enjoyed their first taste of Sri Lankan conditions, nudging forward his Test credentials with four wickets in Katunayake.

The Lancashire leg-spinner took four for 68 on day two of the tourists warm-up match against the SLC Board XI, who were dismissed for 245 in reply to England’s 316.

Parkinson debuted in both limited-over formats over the winter, playing two one-day internationals in South Africa and two Twenty20s in New Zealand, but struggled in his early outings with the red ball.

There was a wicketless practice game in Whangerei and a couple of underwhelming performances in Benoni, during which time questions were asked about his readiness for the top level and, more specifically, about his gentle pace.

But Parkinson is just 23, young for a spinner forged in English conditions, and has just 20 first-class appearances to his name. He has spent his months on tour trying to learn and improve and his haul here was represented a partial pay off.

His first two wickets came from successive balls split by the lunch break, Lahiru Milantha chipping to extra cover just before the interval and home captain Milinda Siriwardana falling to the first delivery of the afternoon session.

He added two more in the evening, his third held by Sam Curran at mid-wicket and number four owing to a sharp catch from Ben Foakes, who split wicketkeeping duties with Test regular Jos Buttler.

Jack Leach, who is on track to be fit after calf trouble, and Dom Bess, who took three for 54, remain ahead in the pecking order but this may prove an important day for Parkinson’s development.

“There haven’t been many days yet in a white shirt but to get four wickets after the way the warm-up games went for me in New Zealand and South Africa was very pleasing,” he said.

“I hope I’m becoming a better bowler and I can use what I’ve learnt. I was in South Africa for two months and a bit, so you’d be wrong not to try to get the most out of the trip. Hopefully I’ve done that.”

Parkinson admitted to a mild case of stagefright when he was first elevated to the touring ranks, but is already feeling more comfortable.

“Having not played much red-ball cricket I needed to prove I can take wickets and almost get over the nerves of bowling with these lads,” he said.

“There were more nerves in the other two tours. I’m still very raw with the red-ball and I think people sometimes forget that spinners develop later. Being picked on three Test tours, the expectations are raised, but I’ve still only played 20 first-class games so I’m still very new to red-ball cricket.”

Parkinson’s best days are still likely to be in front of him but for now his best chance of landing a Test cap in the coming weeks could depend on big-turning pitches that persuade England to go for all-out spin.

“I found it difficult to bowl spin in New Zealand and South Africa but hopefully the wickets in Galle and Colombo will be raggers,” he added with a smile.

Chris Woakes claimed two wickets and also saw two catches dropped by Joe Root at slip, while there was one for Parkinson’s Red Rose team-mate Saqib Mahmood, who bowled brightly and at good speed.

Zak Crawley and Joe Denly resume on 39 for one on the third and final day, Dom Sibley having fallen for a duck late on.

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