MANCHESTER: Peter Moores’ honeymoon period lasted all of one match and after Sunday’s inexplicit annihilation at Chester-le-Street, England are back to square one in their quest to win back hearts and minds of the British public. Slaughterings on a torrid tour in Australia or in alien conditions in Asia can be explained away but the Durham drubbing was a case of seeing is believing for England supporters.
There was no Johnson, no Ajmal or other mystical beast of terror, England were simply done at their own game and the criticisms of the winter returned, perhaps most concerning of bowling too short. Nuwan Kulasekara utilised conditions far better than James Anderson; the Anderson brought back to the ODI team to swing the new ball and take wickets with all the cards in his favour. Anderson needs a response on his home ground.
But of course it was England’s batting, losing all 10 for just 80, that shocked most as no answer was found to high-class swing bowling of Kulasekara who removed the top three. England need to prove it was just an aberration. And they should be confident in doing so after a smart showing in the first rubber at The Oval where Malinga and co. were easily dealt with, save Sachithra Senanayake, in a performance that was supposed to point the way to the future.
Sri Lanka will be delighted with their retort to defeat at The Oval: their first in 11 matches. As a complete one-day unit they are in far better shape than England and at Durham proved that they can play in English conditions. The batting effort should be a fillip for the rest of the tour; they built a solid total without major contributions from Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardene. Tillakaratne Dilshan showed the responsibility the twilight of his career must provide and Ashan Priyanjan’s late burst perhaps showed what lies ahead.
The boy wonder Joe Root has seen his stock fall since last summer. Dropped for the final Ashes Test, he only managed one half-century in the ODI series with Australia before a broken thumb ruled him out of the World T20. A shift at the top of the order could leave Root vulnerable at No. 4 and he needs runs to convince he is worth his place. Vice-captain he may be but Lahiru Thirimanne must be under pressure after two failures against the new ball with both dismissals to James Anderson. You can tack on a single-figure score in Dublin to that run too. Thirimanne needs a score to ensure he keeps Kusal Perera out of the side or being relegated down the order.
There is a good chance Alastair Cook will be fit enough to return, so Michael Carberry is likely to make way. England could bring in Alex Hales to partner Cook and move Ian Bell to No. 3, which could see Gary Ballance moved to No. 4 and Joe Root dropped. Sri Lanka’s success with the swinging ball and bowler-friendly conditions likely at Old Trafford should see them retain the same attack. They could change the top order to take Lahiru Thirimanne out of the firing line and bring in Kulsa Perera. Rangana Herath has arrived and is available for selection.
England: Alastair Cook (capt), Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Jordan, James Tredwell, James Anderson, Harry Gurney
Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews (capt), Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal/Ajantha Mendis.
LAHORE: Skipper Azhar Ali and his charges will be aiming for their first series win in 17 months ...