England v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Headingley June 30, 2006

England aim to score solitary win



Andrew Strauss: 'It's been tough, but I still maintain you learn a lot more about yourself and others when things aren't going well' © Getty Images

All eyes will be on England as they line-up for another vital international match on Saturday - whether anyone will be paying any interest in the cricketers is another matter entirely. They are on the brink of a 5-0 whitewash against Sri Lanka and, given their current lack of confidence, it will be a notable turnaround if they managed to avoid the ignominy of failing to register a win in their own backyard.

The footballer's World Cup quarter-final starts at 4pm and Headingley officials have decided to show crucial passages of play during stoppages in the action. Given that this is the time England are usually throwing away their wickets, the crowd can look forward to plenty of replays on the big screen.

This match holds huge significance for one man following the news of Michael Vaughan's fourth knee operation. Andrew Strauss, England's fourth captain since the Ashes, is likely to be named as the Test leader against Pakistan given that Andrew Flintoff has yet to start bowling again and won't be reassessed for another two weeks. Heading into a crucial four-Test series, against a team vying for England's No. 2 spot, on the back of a whitewash is not the most ideal preparation.

"I've said before it's a massive honour to captain England and if the job was offered to me I'd do it," Strauss admitted."I haven't had any consultation with the England selectors at this stage. I'm sure it's something that will need to be resolved sooner rather than later and I'm sure by the beginning of next week something will be ready to be said."

Strauss is already wearing the slightly haggard expression that even took Michael Atherton a year or so to build up during his reign a decade ago. He has been handed a pretty raw deal; a patched-up side against an in-form and confident opponent but it's the fact that England haven't improved any of their constant failings that is really hard to take.

"It's been tough," Strauss said, "but I still maintain you learn a lot more about yourself and others when things aren't going well. It's not ideal to have stand-in captains and I have been a stand-in for a stand-in [Flintoff] which is far from ideal."

A couple of changes are likely after the Old Trafford defeat, with the Worcestershire duo of Vikram Solanki and Kabir Ali stepping aside. Solanki's return to England colours was a brief affair, drafted into the set-up for one game then released back to Worcestershire where he smashed 92 in the Twenty20. The injuries to Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen have eased although it is unlikely that Pietersen will be risked. Alastair Cook showed enough on his debut to be given another chance in the opening slot.

Kabir Ali was unceremoniously dispatched in the final overs on Wednesday and England may as well give Sajid Mahmood the chance to find some rhythm. He has been left out of the A team to play Pakistan and will only have Twenty20 cricket with Lancashire before the next Test series.

Sri Lanka are expected to make one change, with Chamara Kapugedera replacing the out-of-form Russel Arnold, who has failed to reach double figures in the series. Mahela Jayawardene, who must be leading the race for man-of-the-series after back-to-back centuries, said his team are focused on achieving the whitewash.

"We have played very well and we should be able to go all the way. True, we take each game as it comes, but a 5-0 win will give us a lot of satisfaction. It will prove that we have played consistently well and our hard work has been well rewarded."

England (probable) Marcus Trescothick, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss (capt), Paul Collingwood, Jamie Dalrymple, Geraint Jones (wk), Tim Bresnan, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood, Steve Harmison

Sri Lanka (probable) Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Farveez Maharoof, Chaminda Vaas, Malinga Bandara, Dilhara Fernando, Lasith Malinga

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo