LONDON: England will want to quickly establish a winning formula and regain some confidence in the 50-over game as the ODIs tick down towards Australia and New Zealand next year. Hammered in Australia over the winter, they will want to return in eight months’ time having rebuilt a team to challenge. Having found some ODIs success, certainly at home, England could look positively towards the first World Cup in familiar conditions since 2003 but the winter’s upheaval has left huge holes in England’s ODI side.
This series begins the process of trying to find replacements for Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann. Early-season England will of course present markedly different conditions to what will be encountered at the World Cup but England do not have time on their side: every ODI must be utilised for regeneration. But England are perhaps in better shape than it may appear in ODIs with a solid experienced core of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara, and Jos Buttler now well established. Their bowling attack though poses more cause for concern.
Sri Lanka are in far better shape and have an impressive record at major tournaments behind them. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are playing on in ODIs until the World Cup, and Sangakkara will keep wickets here, which gives them two world-class players to build their side around. They have been flying in one-day cricket recently with World T20 success following an unbeaten campaign in the Asia Cup and they have seam bowlers who can thrive in English conditions.
Ian Bell and Alastair Cook are set to open the batting for England which leaves Michael Carberry, Joe Root and Gary Ballance competing for the No. 3 and 4 spots. England have a choice between Tim Bresnan and Chris Woakes but neither could play if Harry Gurney suitably impressed in Tuesday’s T20 to earn an ODI debut. Sri Lanka have the handy little pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to return, with Sangakkara set to keep wickets. That denies Dinesh Chandimal the gloves and he could make way so Lahiru Thirimanne can keep his place. They could play two spinners and try to exploit England’s weakness with pace off the ball.
England: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Michael Carberry, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, James Tredwell, James Anderson.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews (capt), Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga.
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