England v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Old Trafford July 8, 2011

All eyes on conditions with trophy up for grabs

20

It was overcast and damp in Manchester on Friday, the sort of conditions that make England a force to be reckoned with in one-day cricket, but the forecast for match-day is more sunshine and less cloud. If the series to date is any guide that will give Sri Lanka a good chance of bouncing straight back from their Trent Bridge thrashing to take the one-day series, even though the momentum is with the hosts.

The four matches, which have left the series tied at 2-2, have just reinforced where these two teams' strengths lie. Under cloudy, bowler-friendly conditions, at The Oval and Trent Bridge England have demolished their opponents, led by James Anderson; on warmer - you could say proper summer days - Sri Lanka's subcontinental skills of spin and wristy batting have come to fore.

England were delighted not just by overhead conditions in Nottingham, but also the 22 yards produced by the groundsman. They may not be quite so delighted by what they get at Old Trafford, in what will be the first international since the pitch was turned 90 degrees to face north-south rather than east-west, to avoid the setting sun whenever it decides to appear.

Lancashire have only played one-day matches on the ground so far this season, but have filled their side with spin bowlers. Sometimes they have played four - Gary Keedy, Simon Kerrigan, Stephen Parry and Steven Croft - while the opposition have taken note and utilised slow bowling too. In a sense that's nothing new, Old Trafford has always been a good surface for spin - just ask Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann or Shane Warne. But the pitch is unlikely to have the bounce and carry that England so desire although Jim Cumbes, the Lancashire chief executive, thought it would go through nicely at least from one end.

"They used to have pace and carry and I think that may change the characteristics by turning the pitch around," Alastair Cook said. "Lancashire have been playing three or four spinners. It has changed a little bit.

"I think we're getting a bit too carried away with the wickets," he added. "To me it's our skill levels and we haven't been good at certain times and haven't won. I think there was a directive sent out by Hugh Morris [managing director of England cricket] at the beginning of the year suggesting what wickets we would like. At certain times squares are quite hard to change, but as an English side we always want carry on the wicket."

Neither team was able to have a look at the pitch, however, as it remained covered throughout the training sessions which were held indoors. Predicting pitches is a notoriously difficult job so decisions on playing elevens are likely to be left until the last minute, although the odds favour an unchanged England side, even if there is temptation to play Samit Patel for his left-arm spin.

The slower the better will be the case for Sri Lanka so they can make the most of their spinners, but Tillakaratne Dilshan said he still wanted a balanced attack unlike the spin-heavy combinations that can be used on the subcontinent. Regardless of what conditions confront his team on Saturday, Dilshan believes the main threat will come from Anderson who will have a home crowd supporting him.

"In the two matches with flat wickets we won easily and on two seaming wickets they won easily," Dilshan said. "Anderson is the key man and he's why we lost two matches. If we get some runs against him we have a good chance." Intriguingly, Dilshan hinted they have looked at new tactics to Anderson although he wouldn't confirm exactly what. "It might be to play some shots, you never know," he said.

This game will decide whether Sri Lanka's tour has been a success or not. They were never expected to win the Tests, but the one-day matches were a very different prospect. If they can secure their first series of the post-Muralitharan era, it will bode well for maintaining their position as a limited-overs force.

"We have played very good one-day cricket in last three or four years," Dilshan said. "We have been the runner's up in the last two World Cups. We came here as No. 3 in the world now we are No. 2. There is a good balance between senior players and youngsters."

However, Cook knows that, from his point of view, a series victory against Sri Lanka will be a superb way to start his full-time leadership. "My first two series are against India and Sri Lanka, the two World Cup finalists, and we know what strong sides they are," he said. "It's something we can win. We wanted to test ourselves against the best."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shan_Karthic on July 9, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    @Robs, Keep on dreaming. I am impressed on how Eng won the 1st test despite losing so much time to rain. Did not SL draw a home series against WI despite getting to play more overs than Eng vs SL 1st Test or WI vs India 1st Test? If not for rain, SL would have probably lost the series 0 - 3.

  • voma on July 9, 2011, 15:38 GMT

    @ manesha madiwalagamage , well allow me to reply . England adapted pretty well when they drew with India in the world cup , scoring over 300 runs batting second . Also you might find this hard to believe but we have actually won test matches in India and Pakistan . Exactly how many tests have you won in England ?Err 1 !!! .

  • on July 9, 2011, 15:11 GMT

    The series is like that:::

    Eng won Test (rainy hit test)

    Srilanka won t20 (full over match)

    England won 1st odi(rainy hit D/L)

    Srilanka won 2nd odi (full over match)

    Srilanka won 3rd odi(full over match)

    England won 4th odi(rainy hit D/L)

    so its the the rain effect that is helping England. They haven't won a match in proper condition including test.

  • 5wombats on July 9, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    @Kanchuka Weeranga; "Dry, flat, turning, intimidating Umpires means Murali gets wickets so Sri Lanka wins its so simple a team depends on a 1 man". You have a very short and selective memory and are clearly very envious of a match-winning bowler.

  • Herath-UK on July 9, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    'for years SL batsmen have struggled in overcast English conditions' is true to any asian team.If indians are the team now here,results would have been almost the same.What happened to Pakistan early last year?Indian team is fortunate to play later in the summer and will score glut of runs. Then for centuries,England have been struggling in subcontinent.Players playing in each other country's condition,is unworkable now with so much cricket and IPL. Ranil Herath-Kent

  • on July 9, 2011, 7:47 GMT

    I was saying before the world cup put in Cook in English ODI Colors he is in supreme form. I think a form that every cricket love to have in his career since the tour of Pakistan a century in the last game and then he is unstop able I would love to watch him playing against the week indian bowling lineup. I think English team deserves test no. 1 spot.

  • on July 9, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    @ Voma..Yeah right..tell me a era that the Englishman adapted to our own Lankan conditions?? We are not living in a place where the sun does not shine....helloo???? well when did u adapted the conditions in India ? well watch out when they will turn your dreams in to Nightmares in the coming summer??? Lankan fan.

  • on July 9, 2011, 6:01 GMT

    Wet,Gloomy,Humid means Anderson gets wickets so England wins its so simple a team depends on a 1 man

  • stormy16 on July 9, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    With so much focus on conditions SL have to ask themselves if they have adapted to the conditions at all. It seems when the conditions are in their favor SL are very good but else they are very bad which is a concern. I'm of course speaking about the batting because the bowling has been poor except in the one dayers when the spinners played a part. This is nothing new, for years the SL batsman have struggled in in overcasr English conditions. Its not like the ball doesnt swing in SL but they need to work this out. May be some of them need a season or two in County cricket to really understand how to bat on these conditions.

  • Mannix16 on July 9, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    @Shan Karthick You really dont know anything about the ranking systems do you? The rankings you have seen are the ones that were there since the end of the world cup which is still the same today. After every match, the rankings are not changed... they are changed after a period of time. If Sri Lanka wins the series against the decent England team, they might overtake India who has won similarly against the much weaker West Indian team. South Africa will stay where it is since I don't think they have played an ODI since the end of the WC Can't really stand it can you mate? The fact that the India beat SL in the WC yet SL just might be ahead in the rankings. LOL

  • Shan_Karthic on July 9, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    @Robs, Keep on dreaming. I am impressed on how Eng won the 1st test despite losing so much time to rain. Did not SL draw a home series against WI despite getting to play more overs than Eng vs SL 1st Test or WI vs India 1st Test? If not for rain, SL would have probably lost the series 0 - 3.

  • voma on July 9, 2011, 15:38 GMT

    @ manesha madiwalagamage , well allow me to reply . England adapted pretty well when they drew with India in the world cup , scoring over 300 runs batting second . Also you might find this hard to believe but we have actually won test matches in India and Pakistan . Exactly how many tests have you won in England ?Err 1 !!! .

  • on July 9, 2011, 15:11 GMT

    The series is like that:::

    Eng won Test (rainy hit test)

    Srilanka won t20 (full over match)

    England won 1st odi(rainy hit D/L)

    Srilanka won 2nd odi (full over match)

    Srilanka won 3rd odi(full over match)

    England won 4th odi(rainy hit D/L)

    so its the the rain effect that is helping England. They haven't won a match in proper condition including test.

  • 5wombats on July 9, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    @Kanchuka Weeranga; "Dry, flat, turning, intimidating Umpires means Murali gets wickets so Sri Lanka wins its so simple a team depends on a 1 man". You have a very short and selective memory and are clearly very envious of a match-winning bowler.

  • Herath-UK on July 9, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    'for years SL batsmen have struggled in overcast English conditions' is true to any asian team.If indians are the team now here,results would have been almost the same.What happened to Pakistan early last year?Indian team is fortunate to play later in the summer and will score glut of runs. Then for centuries,England have been struggling in subcontinent.Players playing in each other country's condition,is unworkable now with so much cricket and IPL. Ranil Herath-Kent

  • on July 9, 2011, 7:47 GMT

    I was saying before the world cup put in Cook in English ODI Colors he is in supreme form. I think a form that every cricket love to have in his career since the tour of Pakistan a century in the last game and then he is unstop able I would love to watch him playing against the week indian bowling lineup. I think English team deserves test no. 1 spot.

  • on July 9, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    @ Voma..Yeah right..tell me a era that the Englishman adapted to our own Lankan conditions?? We are not living in a place where the sun does not shine....helloo???? well when did u adapted the conditions in India ? well watch out when they will turn your dreams in to Nightmares in the coming summer??? Lankan fan.

  • on July 9, 2011, 6:01 GMT

    Wet,Gloomy,Humid means Anderson gets wickets so England wins its so simple a team depends on a 1 man

  • stormy16 on July 9, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    With so much focus on conditions SL have to ask themselves if they have adapted to the conditions at all. It seems when the conditions are in their favor SL are very good but else they are very bad which is a concern. I'm of course speaking about the batting because the bowling has been poor except in the one dayers when the spinners played a part. This is nothing new, for years the SL batsman have struggled in in overcasr English conditions. Its not like the ball doesnt swing in SL but they need to work this out. May be some of them need a season or two in County cricket to really understand how to bat on these conditions.

  • Mannix16 on July 9, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    @Shan Karthick You really dont know anything about the ranking systems do you? The rankings you have seen are the ones that were there since the end of the world cup which is still the same today. After every match, the rankings are not changed... they are changed after a period of time. If Sri Lanka wins the series against the decent England team, they might overtake India who has won similarly against the much weaker West Indian team. South Africa will stay where it is since I don't think they have played an ODI since the end of the WC Can't really stand it can you mate? The fact that the India beat SL in the WC yet SL just might be ahead in the rankings. LOL

  • Shan_Karthic on July 8, 2011, 23:58 GMT

    I don't know what is this with SL captains and misreading ICC ranking tables. First they thought they were No 1 in Tests when they were not and now they think they are No 2 in ODIs when they are not. In fact, if they lose tomorrow, they will be ranked No 4.

  • Lord.emsworth on July 8, 2011, 22:16 GMT

    Its becoming more and more obvious these days especially in the short game that its doesnt really matter how good or talented players are. Its often the wicket that decides who wins and who loses. In a way its like formula 1 motor sport. Doesnt matter how good the driver is its the car design that wins. Look at Schumacher... once invincible in Ferrari now nowhere in Mercedes. And Red Bull.. hopless a few years back and now winning everything. You tinker with a wicket and get some aid from the wheather and lo and behold players bite the dust.

  • Herath-UK on July 8, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    So far no summer,disappointing for Lanka.Indians when arrive ,it will be sun and runs Ranil Herath -Kent

  • on July 8, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    last match was a disaster. But there was a clear massive advantage to the team bowl first. bawl did swung quit a bit. When sl bawls pitch look quit a dry feather bed. poor work from the ground staff. there was a fare amount of wetness in the pitch wich should have been not. grass is ok. but wet the sun shine pitch will dry out. that gives a massive advantage team bating second. this is not fare cricket!

  • voma on July 8, 2011, 18:12 GMT

    This makes me laugh this does , Sri Lanka you are playing in England . You have to adapt to our pitches , we allways have to when we are touring India . Its pretty obvious Anderson will be a threat

  • KingOwl on July 8, 2011, 17:41 GMT

    I am happy to note that it is now recognized that it is all about conditions. There isn't a single dominant team in the world, right now. Few teams, including England and SL (plus, India and SA) can dominate in favourable conditions. Aus I think are marginally behind because they lost at home to Eng in tests and to SL in one days, recently.

    But we need a better vacabulary to describe conditions. 'Seaming' is OK. But seaming through the day is very different from seaming early. I hope you guys can come up with terminology that acknoweledges those nuances because they are the key to wins/losses. 'Flat' is a word that is totally abused (including Dilshan here - who is of course no linguist). There is only one flat pitch in SL - the SSC - everybody makes runs there. But others are certainly not flat, because many struggle on them. You get a lot of flat wickets in India and Pakistan, but rarely in SL. But right now, these are all bundled together in cricket commentary

  • Herath-UK on July 8, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    Lanka should drop Kandambi;please don't bring in Dhammika,he won't get bounce here.He is good in Sri Lankan conditions with his speed.If it a seaming wicket in Old Trafford,hopefully Lanka top order should have learnt from Trent Bridge to go slow at the begining to preserve wickets and to leave the ball as much as necessary. Ranil Herath - Kent

  • indian_rockers_2015_champs on July 8, 2011, 16:53 GMT

    if its gloomy it will be cakewalk for england;

  • Deepfreezed on July 8, 2011, 16:46 GMT

    winning the toss is such a big part in England. one side gets an unfair advantage from the conditions. It is just not cricket.

  • on July 8, 2011, 15:46 GMT

    In the absence of Suranga Lakmal, Sri Lanka should play Ajantha Mendis. Out of other options available definitely not Dhammika Prasad, who will be no threat at all. Although classed as a pace bowler in Sri Lanka he has no real pace to trouble English batsmen and severely lacks accuracy. Playing Mendis does mean a totally subcontinent approach of 3 frontline spinners but given the condition of the wicket I am afraid that this should be the way forward. Other than that definite no for the "vice captain" who is severely lacking in match fitness in addition to not having any foot work. Dimuth should make his debut and if the captain feels comfortable in dropping down the order Dimuth can open.

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  • on July 8, 2011, 15:46 GMT

    In the absence of Suranga Lakmal, Sri Lanka should play Ajantha Mendis. Out of other options available definitely not Dhammika Prasad, who will be no threat at all. Although classed as a pace bowler in Sri Lanka he has no real pace to trouble English batsmen and severely lacks accuracy. Playing Mendis does mean a totally subcontinent approach of 3 frontline spinners but given the condition of the wicket I am afraid that this should be the way forward. Other than that definite no for the "vice captain" who is severely lacking in match fitness in addition to not having any foot work. Dimuth should make his debut and if the captain feels comfortable in dropping down the order Dimuth can open.

  • Deepfreezed on July 8, 2011, 16:46 GMT

    winning the toss is such a big part in England. one side gets an unfair advantage from the conditions. It is just not cricket.

  • indian_rockers_2015_champs on July 8, 2011, 16:53 GMT

    if its gloomy it will be cakewalk for england;

  • Herath-UK on July 8, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    Lanka should drop Kandambi;please don't bring in Dhammika,he won't get bounce here.He is good in Sri Lankan conditions with his speed.If it a seaming wicket in Old Trafford,hopefully Lanka top order should have learnt from Trent Bridge to go slow at the begining to preserve wickets and to leave the ball as much as necessary. Ranil Herath - Kent

  • KingOwl on July 8, 2011, 17:41 GMT

    I am happy to note that it is now recognized that it is all about conditions. There isn't a single dominant team in the world, right now. Few teams, including England and SL (plus, India and SA) can dominate in favourable conditions. Aus I think are marginally behind because they lost at home to Eng in tests and to SL in one days, recently.

    But we need a better vacabulary to describe conditions. 'Seaming' is OK. But seaming through the day is very different from seaming early. I hope you guys can come up with terminology that acknoweledges those nuances because they are the key to wins/losses. 'Flat' is a word that is totally abused (including Dilshan here - who is of course no linguist). There is only one flat pitch in SL - the SSC - everybody makes runs there. But others are certainly not flat, because many struggle on them. You get a lot of flat wickets in India and Pakistan, but rarely in SL. But right now, these are all bundled together in cricket commentary

  • voma on July 8, 2011, 18:12 GMT

    This makes me laugh this does , Sri Lanka you are playing in England . You have to adapt to our pitches , we allways have to when we are touring India . Its pretty obvious Anderson will be a threat

  • on July 8, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    last match was a disaster. But there was a clear massive advantage to the team bowl first. bawl did swung quit a bit. When sl bawls pitch look quit a dry feather bed. poor work from the ground staff. there was a fare amount of wetness in the pitch wich should have been not. grass is ok. but wet the sun shine pitch will dry out. that gives a massive advantage team bating second. this is not fare cricket!

  • Herath-UK on July 8, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    So far no summer,disappointing for Lanka.Indians when arrive ,it will be sun and runs Ranil Herath -Kent

  • Lord.emsworth on July 8, 2011, 22:16 GMT

    Its becoming more and more obvious these days especially in the short game that its doesnt really matter how good or talented players are. Its often the wicket that decides who wins and who loses. In a way its like formula 1 motor sport. Doesnt matter how good the driver is its the car design that wins. Look at Schumacher... once invincible in Ferrari now nowhere in Mercedes. And Red Bull.. hopless a few years back and now winning everything. You tinker with a wicket and get some aid from the wheather and lo and behold players bite the dust.

  • Shan_Karthic on July 8, 2011, 23:58 GMT

    I don't know what is this with SL captains and misreading ICC ranking tables. First they thought they were No 1 in Tests when they were not and now they think they are No 2 in ODIs when they are not. In fact, if they lose tomorrow, they will be ranked No 4.