The Ravi riddle! Bopara hits 66 but may still miss out on first Test against Sri Lanka

Ravi Bopara inched his way towards inclusion in the first Test on Thursday but left more questions than answers for England to ponder.

Bopara, favourite for the No 6 position vacated by Eoin Morgan, spent valuable time in the middle as England successfully chased the 359 they needed to defeat a Sri Lankan Development XI and record their second  victory in successive warm-up matches.

Making the cut: Bopara on his way to a scratchy 66 on Thursday

Making the cut: Bopara on his way to a scratchy 66 on Thursday

Yet, if Bopara's 66 enhanced his claims to succeed Morgan, the fact he was dropped three times and news he will be unavailable to bowl in Galle left the matter far from settled.

Andy Flower, the England team director, insists he will retain an open mind, though, over the remaining place in the line-up until he has seen the wicket that will be used for Monday's first Test.

His and batting coach Graham Gooch's faith in batting depth and a four-man bowling attack remains resolute, but if there is anywhere in the world where their resolve could be shaken it is Sri Lanka.

The suffocating heat and humidity mean fast bowlers cannot bowl spells longer than four or five overs and  questions remain over Stuart Broad because of his ankle problem and Graeme Swann's poor form.

Out of sorts: Question marks remain over Swann's form

Out of sorts: Question marks remain over Swann's form

Add the fact that Bopara has been ruled 'unlikely' to bowl because of a left side strain, and the temptation to reinforce the attacking options will be strong.

Steven Finn is very unlucky not to be a regular member of the Test attack, but the only way he could play would be if Broad suffered a setback in his recovery, as his inclusion would leave too long a tail.

Matt finish: Prior hit 85 from just 60 balls on Thursday

Matt finish: Prior hit 85 from just 60 balls on Thursday

That leaves Tim Bresnan as the only feasible alternative to Bopara because he could bat at No 7, with Broad and Swann completing a more than decent lower middle order.

Matt Prior is certainly capable of  batting at six, as he again showed yesterday with 85 from just 60 balls, but England prefer him at seven.

One man who will certainly play is Ian Bell, even though he again fell cheaply yesterday - for 11 - and has now scored just 129 runs in 13 innings in 2012.

But after becoming one of the best batsmen in the world last year, it is inconceivable England will not give him this series to put things right.

England's attacking move to declare on Wednesday was rewarded when the home side handed them 64 overs to score 359.

They reached it with 20 balls in hand, with Samit Patel - showing that he has a place at this level, if not in Galle, with 72 - and Swann hurrying England home.

Kevin Pietersen also stroked his way to a half-century that augers well for a bigger score next week. The only question now is whether Bopara has done enough to join him.


Sri Lanka yesterday gave their backing to Tillekeratne Dilshan after he was linked to a Bollywood actress alleged to have been involved in match-fixing.

Dilshan, who was said by Sri Lankan newspapers to be in a relationship with Nupur Mehta during the World Twenty20 in 2009, will be named in the squad for the first Test.