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September 30, 2007
Sri Lanka v England, 1st ODI, Dambulla, starts 1430 local, 0900 GMT
After the mayhem in South Africa, it's now time to return to a calmer, longer format of the game. Sri Lanka and England have hardly had time to catch their breath, but immediately face a five-match, 50-overs series beginning in Dambulla on Monday.
England shook off their stomach bugs to ease to victory in a warm-up on Saturday, but they will be hoping to shake off much more, too: memories of their match here four years ago when they were toppled for 88, and overhauled in 13.5 overs.
Paul Collingwood - one of two survivors along with James Anderson - would, of course, rather forget: "When I have memories like that I usually blank them out," he admitted. "I don't remember too much about it other than it turned quite a bit and they knocked the runs off pretty quickly. There's no point looking back, we need to look forward."
The last time the two sides met in a bilateral series in 2006, England were walloped 5-0 on home soil. Andrew Flintoff's left ankle was out for the series then, and it won't be available now. Mahela Jayawardene recognises that this big blow helps Sri Lanka - whose last home series ended in 3-0 triumph against Bangladesh in July. But he won't be underestimating England, believing they are stronger than in 2006. "England will be a good challenge for us."
Muttiah Muralitharan's injured bicep has ruled him out of the first three matches at least. Muralitharan has not played one-day cricket since taking Sri Lanka to the World Cup final in April, owing to a combination of rest and county commitments. In any case Sri Lanka are keener to get him fit for their ensuing trip to Australia but Dilruwan Perera, the offspinner, replaces him for now.
"It doesn't make that big a difference," insisted Jayawardene. "We've toured without Murali and done well and we played without him for almost a year when he had a shoulder problem. When our guys are pushed to the limit we tend to come back strongly."
Chaminda Vaas has also not featured in ODIs since the World Cup but he did play the ICC World Twenty20, which Muralitharan missed with an elbow problem. Vaas is back now, but even so Sri Lanka will limit his workload.
The allrounder Kaushal Lokuarachchi comes in ahead of fellow legspinner Malinga Bandara. Lokuarachchi, Loku to his team, had a successful tour of England with Sri Lanka A this summer with both bat and ball. A spin academy product, he has 30 wickets in his 19, mostly sporadic, one-day appearances.
His inclusion allows Sri Lanka to assess him as an eventual replacement for Sanath Jayasuriya. Jayawardene knows already what Bandara can do, so now it's time for Lokuarachchi to press his claims. "It's good for us to try a few things right now, see what Loku has to offer and how we can have different combinations going forward."
Bell, untarnished by the World Twenty20, made a fluid century in the warm-up, while James Anderson bowled well yet again, taking three wickets. Ryan Sidebottom, recovered from a side strain, took the new ball and struck early. His first-change replacement, Stuart Broad, brushed aside memories of Yuvraj Singh's six sixes, to take two wickets.
All three pace bowlers acquitted themselves well under the eye of Ottis Gibson, England's bowling coach for this tour. Allan Donald is unavailable owing to TV commitments in South Africa but Gibson - who has already worked at the ECB's national academy in Loughborough - could be a longer-term candidate with Donald heading back to his former county Warwickshire.
Phil Mustard, the sixth wicketkeeper England have used this year - no keeper won a central contract, either - is in line to open, as Matt Prior is out with a broken thumb. Much hype has surrounded Mustard since his eye-catching 49 in the Lord's final for Durham, and Peter Moores has whisked him in, despite Dale Benkenstein, his county captain, urging caution in rushing him on to the international stage.
Still, he arrives with 62 Championship victims under his belt this season, and 893 runs in limited-overs at a strike-rate of 111. Whether Paul Nixon, England's forgotten keeper, feels slightly hard done-to is another story. Of the squad itself, Collingwood is excited: "All 15 players have a good chance of playing - and that's the beauty of it. We believe we have the skill and depth here to win the series."
New regulations will take effect, namely that free-hits will be introduced for front foot no-balls; another fielder will be allowed outside the circle in Powerplays and the ball will be changed after 35 overs in each innings.
"It gives the captains a few more options which in turn gives you a few more headaches and tactics," said Collingwood. "With a third person outside the ring, it may help to bowl the spinners during that period. The free hit will also be exciting for the spectators and you may see the bowlers dragging their foot back a bit."
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Jehan Mubarak, 8 Kaushal Lokuarachchi, 9 Chaminda Vaas, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Dilhara Fernando.
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Phil Mustard (wk), 3 Ian Bell, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ravi Bopara, 6 Paul Collingwood (capt), 7 Owais Shah, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Monty Panesar, 10 Ryan Sidebottom, 11 James Anderson.
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