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June 27, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, The Oval
Start time 1300 (1200 GMT)
This time last week, Andrew Strauss was England's man at the helm. On Saturday, for a perfunctory 37.2 overs, Stuart Broad took over as national captain, and at 12.30pm tomorrow afternoon, Alastair Cook will line up at the toss as England's third skipper in eight days. The policy of separate leaders for all three formats always looked like a bit of a gamble, but right at this moment, following the most anticlimactic coronation imaginable for Broad at Bristol, there's an additional layer of scrutiny pending.
On the bright side for Cook, his first game as full-time ODI captain is unlikely to go quite as badly as Strauss's last in the role, in Colombo three months ago. England's ten-wicket drubbing in that fixture was inflicted by Upul Tharanga, who is currently serving a suspension for the use of a prohibited substance, and Tillakaratne Dilshan who, although passed fit, is still feeling the effects of his broken thumb. Nevertheless, there was a yawning gulf in class on display at Bristol. In the 50-over format, England have four years in which to get their act together ahead of the 2015 World Cup. Few people are expecting them to pull it off at the first time of asking.
There will be other factors at play at The Oval. After a handy cameo with the ball, if not the bat, at Bristol, Sanath Jayasuriya is preparing to sign off from international cricket at the ground where, in 1998, his blazing double-century set the stage for Muttiah Muralitharan's 16-wicket masterclass in the one-off Test against England. The circumstances of his recall have been controversial, even though with Dilshan missing for a week his experience has not been unwelcome. Meanwhile off the pitch, Stuart Law has confirmed he will be moving on to become coach of Bangladesh. Distractions abound for Sri Lanka, but they are pretty accustomed to such things.
But the major focus will be on a left-handed opener with a somewhat different reputation in short-form cricket. The success of the three-captain policy requires each of the leaders to display personal form while producing the victories expected of them. So far this summer, Strauss has won a Test series without scoring runs, while Broad has been hammered in his solitary outing without showing much evidence of a return to his best. Cook, meanwhile, has been scoring runs for fun in Test cricket, but struggled to raise his game in an ODI scenario at Lord's last month, where he was stumped for the first time in his first-class career. He will know, better than anyone, how much he has to prove.
Form guide (most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWWWW
The spotlightWhere else to look but Alastair Cook? Stuart Broad may have had a tough time on his captaincy debut at Bristol on Saturday, but at least his value as a limited-overs performer has rarely been called into question. Cook, on the other hand, wasn't deemed worthy of a place in England's 30-man squad for the World Cup earlier this year, and yet has now been parachuted back straight back into the set-up as skipper. In his defence he performed admirably in a stand-in capacity in Bangladesh last year, but the doubts about his suitability have been voiced already, with the former England captain Mike Atherton denouncing him as a "plodder" on Sunday morning. "Takes one to know one," was Cook's wry reply.
Lasith Malinga's four overs at Bristol were as perfect as one could hope to witness in Twenty20 cricket. His first Powerplay over cost just three runs, his second accounted for the vital wicket of Eoin Morgan, his third leaked five singles as England tried and failed to up the tempo, and his last resulted in two wickets, three scrambled byes and not a single run off the bat. His absence from the Test series was understandable given the nature of his role and the workload required in five-day games, but this was a hint as to what exactly Sri Lanka had missed.
Andrew Strauss's ODI retirement means there will be no change more notable than the one at the top of the order, where Cook will be reunited with his opening partner from last year's tour of Bangladesh, Craig Kieswetter. Of the two rookies who opened the bowling in the Twenty20, Chris Woakes seems the likelier to make way for the returning James Anderson, which means Jade Dernbach should make his ODI debut on his home ground. Tim Bresnan's late inclusion in the squad could squeeze Samit Patel out of the starting XI, despite his five-wicket haul on this ground against South Africa in 2008.
England (probable) 1 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 2 Alastair Cook (capt), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ian Bell, 7 Samit Patel/Tim Bresnan, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Jade Dernbach.
Sri Lanka had good news late on Monday when Tillakaratne Dilshan was passed fit after his broken thumb and he'll open with Sanath Jayasuriya, meaning Mahela Jayawardene reverts to his middle-order role. Angelo Mathews is still doubtful to bowl and Dilshan may not be risked with the ball, either.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt) 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilina Kandamby, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Suraj Randiv, 11 Lasith Malinga,
Pitch and conditionsLondon's dank June has given way to a mini-heatwave in the two days leading up to the start of the match, although that is all set to end with thunderstorms forecast for Monday evening. The wet weather should have cleared sufficiently to allow a prompt start at 1pm, but the clouds may still be lingering.
Stats and trivia
"I just see myself as the one-day captain. I'm just concentrating on tomorrow's game and doing the best job I can. We can worry about the other stuff later."
Alastair Cook presents a straight bat to questions about his Test captaincy ambitions.
"Sanath won't be staying on for the rest of the series. He has already decided to retire after the first one-day. That's his call and we can't help it."
Thilina Kandamby prepares to say farewell to Sanath Jayasuriya.
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