England v Sri Lanka, only T20, The Oval May 19, 2014

England ready to repay fans - Morgan

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'A huge opportunity to impress'

The last time England were at The Oval it concluded with some of the players urinating on the pitch during their late-night celebrations of the Ashes series victory. Even if it was a 'lads' moment in the afterglow of success, and they were perhaps unlucky to be caught in the act, that is not the point: it was crass and disrespectful.

In hindsight, the malaise which was to destroy their winter had already started to set in during last summer, both in terms of how England played their cricket and perceived themselves. The success which led to that late-night leak on the 22 yards now feels a lifetime ago, after six months around the world where England were battered, beaten and broken.

They are now back in south London to begin their new home season. The team did what they had to do in Scotland - show willing and avoid defeat - and now the summer begins in earnest with a T20 against world champions Sri Lanka before five one-day internationals and two Tests ahead of the visit of India.

The players will walk out in front of a packed 24,500 at The Oval. Surrey have reported a weekend rush for the final batch of tickets, perhaps a combination of the warm weather (which, as if on cue, is not set to last) and the start of the T20 Blast to whet the appetite for the format. However, London venues rarely struggle to fill up to the rafters for England matches so the ECB - and this case its public face, the team - would be foolish to rest on their laurels and believe the punters will continue to turn up regardless.

Eoin Morgan, leading England for the T20 in the absence of the injured Stuart Broad, was aware how lucky the team was to have loyal support but acknowledged that they needed to be given something in return.

"We have always had great support, even when we travel around the world and the arenas are not full, and every time we come home it has always been to a packed stadium," he said. "That's great, it shows how much we cherish the game

"Having heard it will be a sell-out, there's always great support here from the English fans and it's great to see it's no different this summer. To repay a little bit of what happened in the winter, a win would go a long way tomorrow and start off our season properly."

In the bigger picture there is little riding on the game, especially as England have declined the opportunity to throw caution to the wind and play a young side with an eye on the next World T20, staged in India, during 2016. Recalling Michael Carberry, however deserving, is not a revolution.

Still, it is a match against the team who recently walked away with the world title during which England were the only team they were beaten by, courtesy of Alex Hales' unbeaten 116 - although Sri Lanka do not appeared overly perturbed by that reversal given how the tournament panned out for them. "We had a tough match against them, but it is in the past now," Lasith Malinga said. "It feels good to be world champions."

The opposition will have a notably different look this time, Sri Lanka having lost the retired Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara while Rangana Herath is rested, but victory would still be a good marker to lay down.

"There's huge confidence to take from the game we played in the group stages of the World Cup," Morgan said. "They're a notable T20 team; they have great variations. We've seen and played against the majority of their side and to turn them over in the World Cup was a great effort. If we can put in a similar performance tomorrow that will go a long way."

With that aim in mind, England have been trying to gain an extra advantage by tapping up the inside knowledge of Paul Farbrace who, until a few weeks, was Sri Lanka's coach. While the visitors have continued to toe the line that his move to the opposition makes little difference -Malinga said it was just down to the players to perform in the middle - England have certainly been making use of the information available.

"He has been key in our preparation," Morgan said. "He knows their guys inside out, as he should do, and his knowledge and applying our skills in countering things they do has been really good. He has gone through the majority of their players and probably given us a bit more background than we would be able to access, which is brilliant."

However, even if Farbrace's dossier on the Sri Lankans helps England secure a victory, the only reason one of the players will be caught short this time will be going for a quick single.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on May 20, 2014, 12:52 GMT

    I doubt any other team will want to recruit a coach like Paul Farbrace who undermines the integrity and professionalism just for a quick windfall. It is quite uncharacteristic for a coach from any sport to be doing what he is. I have a feeling ECB might get rid off him thinking he will do the same when it comes to England and offer player pro and cons to another team and break confidentiality.

  • rezmata on May 20, 2014, 7:37 GMT

    Errr Andrew/Morgan... have you considered that most of the crowd that reserved tickets could be Sri Lankans living in SL??? Only time will tell how long Morgans confidence will last.

  • Tinybaba on May 20, 2014, 2:28 GMT

    Dont worry about coach Paul. He was there just a few months and we didnt win all these matched because of him. His leaving us and going to England is nothing. Dont forget that planning and execution that in the middle is two totally differentworlds.

  • on May 20, 2014, 12:52 GMT

    I doubt any other team will want to recruit a coach like Paul Farbrace who undermines the integrity and professionalism just for a quick windfall. It is quite uncharacteristic for a coach from any sport to be doing what he is. I have a feeling ECB might get rid off him thinking he will do the same when it comes to England and offer player pro and cons to another team and break confidentiality.

  • rezmata on May 20, 2014, 7:37 GMT

    Errr Andrew/Morgan... have you considered that most of the crowd that reserved tickets could be Sri Lankans living in SL??? Only time will tell how long Morgans confidence will last.

  • Tinybaba on May 20, 2014, 2:28 GMT

    Dont worry about coach Paul. He was there just a few months and we didnt win all these matched because of him. His leaving us and going to England is nothing. Dont forget that planning and execution that in the middle is two totally differentworlds.

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  • Tinybaba on May 20, 2014, 2:28 GMT

    Dont worry about coach Paul. He was there just a few months and we didnt win all these matched because of him. His leaving us and going to England is nothing. Dont forget that planning and execution that in the middle is two totally differentworlds.

  • rezmata on May 20, 2014, 7:37 GMT

    Errr Andrew/Morgan... have you considered that most of the crowd that reserved tickets could be Sri Lankans living in SL??? Only time will tell how long Morgans confidence will last.

  • on May 20, 2014, 12:52 GMT

    I doubt any other team will want to recruit a coach like Paul Farbrace who undermines the integrity and professionalism just for a quick windfall. It is quite uncharacteristic for a coach from any sport to be doing what he is. I have a feeling ECB might get rid off him thinking he will do the same when it comes to England and offer player pro and cons to another team and break confidentiality.