ESSEX Head Coach Chris Silverwood has heaped praise on batsman Tom Westley after he made a superb start to the England Lions tour in Sri Lanka. 

Silverwood, who is also England Lions Assistant Coach, has watched Westley grow in confidence in recent matches and saw him come within five runs of a maiden Lions century last weekend.

And he has now challenged the 27-year-old to build on his early promise - with captain Keaton Jennings and Lions coach Andy Flower also hailing his recent performances.

“It was great to see Tom batting so nicely early in the tour,” said Silverwood. “He did well for the Lions against Afghanistan before Christmas, and this is a great chance for him to build on that.”

Westley hit 95 on an otherwise disappointing day for the team, following a poor showing with the bat in sweltering conditions on the second day of their warm-up match against a Board President’s XI in Moratuwa.

The Lions squandered a decent overnight platform of 168-4, with the last six wickets falling for just 74 runs.

Westley shone though and went on to make a terrific 95 before missing the chance of a maiden Lions century.

This came shortly after he hit an important 84 for the Lions in the first-class match against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi before Christmas.

And, before leaving for the tour, Westley said he felt his exploits with the Lions last winter helped his form for Essex as they won promotion to County Championship Division One.

“I am a big believer in going out and playing cricket in different environments to improve yourself as a cricketer,” said Westley, who scored more than 1,000 runs last season.

“Last winter I really felt the benefits of being involved with the Lions and hopefully this tour to Sri Lanka will have a similar impact this season.”