World champion test for England
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Start time 6pm local (1700 GMT)
England's season began amid showers and sunshine in Aberdeen but the first serious test of their summer comes at The Oval. Having reversed the usual schedule for sides touring in May and June, they will begin engagements against Sri Lanka with a one-off T20 international, ahead of ODI and Test series, as the Peter Moores regime opens for a second run in front of a home audience.
For quite different, though not entirely unrelated, reasons these are two teams in flux. When England beat Sri Lanka in Chittagong almost two months ago, they inflicted what was to be the only defeat of Paul Farbrace's brief time in charge. England trailed out of Bangladesh a week later having been humbled by the Dutch, while Sri Lanka went on to win the World T20; Ashley Giles subsequently lost his job as limited-overs coach and Farbrace was headhunted to be Moores' assistant in the new set-up.
Sri Lanka may have been entitled to a sense of dudgeon over Farbrace's defection to the opposition but, on the surface at least, relations remain cordial. Marvan Atapattu has stepped up as interim head coach and his immediate issue is how to fill a couple of rather large holes in the T20 batting order, following the triumphant retirements of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra. He will officially be working with a new captain, too, after Lasith Malinga was promoted from the locum role he fulfilled when Dinesh Chandimal decided to drop himself at the World T20.
The identity of England's leader has also changed, although in this case due to Stuart Broad rehabilitating a long-term knee injury. Eoin Morgan takes charge of a squad that has been tweaked rather than overhauled - despite returns for Michael Carberry and Ian Bell, England's T20 thinking remains much the same - but fresh impressions can still be made on the new coaching staff. Although that does not mean a reprieve for Jade Dernbach.
While Sri Lanka, who gave Sussex an almighty thrashing in their final warm-up game, are ranked the world's No. 2 T20 side, England have slumped to a lowly eighth. Moores got off to a winning start against Scotland ten days ago but, even without the additional motivation, Sri Lanka will not arrive in south London bearing gifts.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWWLW
In the spotlight
With most of the playing personnel familiar, the focus instead will be on the coaching set-up and, perhaps, England's new team ethic. Moores, Alastair Cook and now Morgan have talked of reconnecting with the fans, while there has seemingly been an increased openness with the media. Public displays of togetherness can be no bad thing but some might argue that creating a culture of winning is an even higher priority after England's grim winter.
He may not be remembered as the captain that led Sri Lanka to World T20 glory but Dinesh Chandimal arguably did something even more remarkable in leaving himself out for the good of the team. With Sangakkara's departure, Chandimal takes up an equally weighty mantle as wicketkeeper-batsman. His promise is undoubted and a settled role could help him bring his T20 international average of 13.30 closer to his 28.96 overall.
Michael Lumb and Dernbach were the main casualties of England's World T20 failure, with Carberry in line for an international debut in the shortest format and Harry Gurney bringing a left-arm dimension to England's attack. Bell could come into the shake-up for a top-three spot but Moeen Ali and Joe Root both offer bowling options. Morgan has batted more often at No. 4 in recent times but has a better record at five.
England (probable): 1 Alex Hales, 2 Michael Carberry, 3 Moeen Ali, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Harry Gurney
Sri Lanka rested Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara in Hove but all three should come back into the side, which will be missing at least three players from their World T20 final win six weeks ago - alongside the retirements of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Rangana Herath is being saved for the Test series. Kithuruwan Vithanage clattered 52 off 24 balls against Sussex, which may have edged him ahead of Ashan Priyanajan for a T20 debut.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Kithuruwan Vithanage, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Sachithra Senanayake, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Lasith Malinga
Pitch and conditions
The T20 international between England and New Zealand at The Oval last year served up nearly 400 runs and another surface conducive to batting is likely. However, the prospect of showers interrupting the evening may temper expectations of a repeat.
Stats and trivia
- England's victory World T20 over Sri Lanka was their highest successful chase and saw Alex Hales score the first T20 hundred by an Englishman
- Sri Lanka have won both of their previous T20s against England in England
- Tillakaratne Dilshan can take advantage of Jayawardene's retirement to overtake him in the leading run-scorers list - he needs 42 to move into second behind Brendon McCullum
"There's a huge opportunity tomorrow for individuals right down, batting and bowling, as well as collectively as a unit."
Eoin Morgan expresses the sense of possibility that currently pervades around England
"We had a tough match against England in the World Cup. But the past is past."
Lasith Malinga was not captain for the defeat in Chittagong but he has not forgotten a painful night
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick